Following the Steps of the Savior
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 13, 2013
*Over the years, I have known maybe 15 or 20 people who got to visit the Holy Land. They all said what a blessing it was to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
*Most of us can only imagine what it would be like to sail on the Sea of Galilee or climb the Mount of Olives. But because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the gift of God's Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, because in Hebrews 13:5, Jesus said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," and because in Matthew 18:20, Jesus promised, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them," -- because of all these things, we too can walk in the steps of Jesus!
*Even if we never leave Caldwell Parish, we can still follow the steps of the Savior. God's Word shows us how.
1. First: We must repent.
*We see this truth in vs. 17, where Matthew says: "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"
*Here God gives us an emphatic call to repent. It's the same call given by John the Baptist back in Matthew 3:2: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" It's the same command our Risen Savior gave to most of the churches in Revelation 2&3: "Repent!"
*It's the same cry heard down through the ages as men of God called people back to the Lord: "Repent!" -- "Change your mind. Turn around. Turn to God. Turn back to God." Repent whoever you are, whenever you need to, and however you need to. Repent.
*Of course we need to repent of any known sin in our lives. And all of us need to repent in some ways, because none of us is perfect. All of us need to repent, because God both desires and demands it.
*The Lord gives us an emphatic call to repent. What did Jesus say to the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8:11? He said: "I do not condemn you; go and sin no more." That's repentance. In 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul put it this way: "The solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knows those who are His, and Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." That's repentance.
*One of the best pictures of repentance in the Bible is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke's Gospel. This rebellious young man squandered all of his inheritance with prostitutes and wild living, but after he lost everything, he repented.
*As Jesus describes the young man's repentance in Luke 15, we see 3 clear changes.
-First, his mind changed.
-Then his will changed.
-Then his action or direction changed.
*Listen to the Lord in Luke 15:17-20:
17. "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! (His mind changed.)
18. I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19. and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."' (His will changed.)
20. And he arose and came to his father. . ." (His action changed. The whole direction of his life changed. That's repentance.)
*And remember the wonderful reception the young man received when he returned to his father. Jesus tells us about it in Luke 15:20-24.
20. "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
21. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
22. But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24. for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry."
*Church: This is surely a picture of our Heavenly Father, for in Luke 15:7&10, Jesus has already told us twice about the great joy in Heaven when even one sinner repents.
*And we have every reason to repent: We need to repent. We can repent. And we have a great place to turn when we repent, for "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Better than that, we have a great person to turn to: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! We just need to turn to the Lord.
*Eric Ritz says, "Most of the time what you need most to change is to simply admit that you need to change. Then ask directions from the One who has the power to change you."
*Eric told about a lady who got lost driving through the state of Pennsylvania. She stopped and asked a man how far it was to Phillipsburg, New Jersey. The man gave this reply: "Well, the way you are going it is 24,995 miles. However, if you will turn around and get back on Route 22 going east, it is about 5 miles." (1)
*Many times, the best way to get where we need to be is simply turn around and go in the opposite direction. That's repentance. Turn around, and start following the Lord.
*How can we follow the steps of our Savior? -- Repent.
2. And respond to God's call.
*It's the call of the Lord we hear in vs. 18&19:
18. Now Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
19. And He said to them, "Follow Me. . ."
 The call to follow Jesus is a call to faith.
*How can I follow Him if I can't trust Him? Peter, Andrew, James and John all decided to trust Jesus. That was the right decision. And we can trust Him too, because Jesus has been faithful in every way.
*In 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, the Apostle Paul declared:
23. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
*In 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Paul said: "The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one."
*In 2 Timothy 2:13, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself."
*In Hebrews 2:17, Jesus is our "faithful High Priest."
*So 1 John1:8-9 says:
8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
*If the Lord never showed His faithfulness any other way, He showed it when He died on the cross for our sins.
*About 150 years ago, Sam Davis was a Confederate spy. Sam was captured, tried and executed for his crime in Pulaski, Tennessee. When Sam was captured by the Union army, he was carrying some papers of vital importance. The officers in charge knew that Sam must have had an accomplice to get those papers.
*He was court-martialed, led out before the firing squad and blindfolded. Then the officer in charge offered Sam this deal: "If you will give us the name of the man who furnished you this information, you may go free." Without hesitation, Sam Davis gave this reply: "If I had a thousand lives I would give them all before I would betray a friend." (2)
*Sam Davis was faithful to die for his friend. But Jesus was faithful to die even for His enemies! Paul said this to believers in Colossians 1:21-22:
21. . . "You, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled
22. in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight"
*Jesus is ever and always faithful. He is more faithful than we could ever be. We can trust Him. And we must trust Him.
 The call to follow Jesus is a call to faith. -- And it's a call to fellowship.
*"Follow Me," Jesus says. And what an excellent fellowship that is. Bill Gaither put it well when he wrote:
-"Since I started for the Kingdom,
-Since my life He controls,
-Since I gave my heart to Jesus,
-The longer I serve Him,
-The sweeter He grows.
-The longer serve Him, the sweeter He grows,
-The more that I love Him, more love He bestows;
-Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows,
-The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows." (3)
*Following Jesus Christ gives us the sweetest fellowship we can ever have. When we walk with the Lord, we have fellowship that gives hope and peace in the worst of times.
*Pastor Frank Harrington gave an example from the darkest days of World War II. It's the story of a Dutch Jew. Her name was Etty Hillesum, and she lived in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation in 1942.
*Etty knew that it was just a matter of time until the SS came after her and her friends. She decided not to go into hiding as others did, even though she knew that the German ring around them was tightening every day.
*Etty kept a journal until the end of her life and just before she was packed into a cattle car, she threw it to a friend. The journal was lost and forgotten until it was discovered in 1986 and published as a book called "An Interrupted Life."
*At some point while waiting for capture, Etty had been given a Bible, and began to read it. Through that reading, she came to faith in Jesus Christ. Etty's journal became a running conversation between God and her. She put out her hand and heart to God and courageously walked with Him through her troubles.
*Listen to just a few lines of what she wrote: "From all sides, our destruction creeps up on us and soon the ring will be closed, and no one will be able to come to our aid. I don't feel that I am in anyone's clutches: I feel safe in God's arms. Once you have begun to walk with God, you need only keep walking with him and all of life becomes one long stroll." (4)
*Etty Hillesum found the indestructible blessing of fellowship with God. So can we. The call to follow Jesus is a call to have faith in and fellowship with Jesus Christ. But we have to respond to His call. Tonight the Lord is surely calling us to follow Him.
*How can we follow Jesus? Repent. Respond to God's call.
3. And be re-created by God.
*This is the Lord's message to us in the last part of vs. 19. Jesus "said to them (and to us), 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'"
*"I will make you fishers of men." That word "make" in the original language is "poy-eh-o". It's where we get our word "poem."
*Jesus is promising here that He will write a new end to the story of our lives. He is promising to transform our lives. He is promising to make us into a brand new creation, IF we will follow Him.
*When we receive Jesus, we really are born again. And 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
*We sing about this transformation all the time and celebrate it in one of our favorite hymns.
-"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."
-I once was lost, but now am found.
-Was blind, but now I see."
*Jesus promises to write a new end to the story of our life, IF we will follow Him. And the Lord can do amazing things through our lives, when we follow Him, because we are re-born. We are re-created with a new life.
*How can we follow the footsteps of Jesus?
-Respond to God's call.
-Be re-created by God.
4. And rely on God for the catch.
*When it comes to serving the Lord, this fishing we are to do for Jesus is not so much something we do. It's something He does through us, when we follow Him. Again, Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
*Jesus promises to make us more than we could ever be on our own, if we will follow Him. He promises to make us fruitful for His Kingdom, if we will follow Him. He promises that we can do the greatest good for people, if we will follow Him. So when we follow Jesus, the good we accomplish is not us. -- It's Him!
*The Apostle Paul knew that. In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, Paul talked about the work he had done for Jesus, and Paul said this:
9. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
*When we follow Jesus, the good we accomplish is not us. -- It's Him. And here in Matthew 4, Peter, Andrew, James and John all followed Jesus. The Bible confirms this to us in vs. 20-22:
20. Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him.
21. And going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. And He called them,
22. and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
*Back in vs. 19, Jesus had promised: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Did Jesus make them into fishers of men? We know He did, and there was an amazing catch. In fact Christians: You and I are part of their catch! Of course, lots of others helped along the way. And now God wants us to go fishing, -- not for fish, but for lost people who are hopeless without our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
*And there is an urgency to it. One day, a man went to the beach near Jacksonville, Florida. The undertow was very strong that day. More than once, the lifeguards jumped down from their towers to rescue swimmers from the treacherous surf.
*Finally, the man went to the lifeguard station to express his appreciation for the dedication of these men. When he walked inside, he noticed this sign on the wall in large red letters: "IF IN DOUBT, GO!" And the man said, "Those same words should be on the walls of every church and on the wall of every Christian's soul."
"IF IN DOUBT, GO!" Go to your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Tell them about the love of God, and what Jesus has done in your life. This is a huge part of following Jesus Christ. (5)
*And even if we never leave Caldwell Parish, we can still follow the steps of Jesus.
-Respond to God's call.
-Be re-created by Christ.
-And rely on God for the catch.
*Let's go to God in prayer.
(1) KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 3105 - SOURCE: Dynamic Preaching (www.sermons.com) Disk, Winter 1992 "A" - TITLE: Why Change Is Possible - AUTHOR: Rev. Eric S. Ritz - DATE: 1192
(2) "The Pastor's Story File," Volume 12, Number 4, Feb. 1996, p. 4 - Source: Dynamic Illustrations
(3) Words and music by William J. Gaither copyright 1965
(4) Lewis B. Smedes, "The Art of Forgiving" - Nashville, TN: "Moorings," a division of The Ballantine Publishing Groups, Random House, 1996 - pp. 112-113 - Source: Peachtree Presbyterian Pulpit - Advent Series: "The Messiah!" - #1 - "The Promised Messiah!" by W. Frank Harrington, Isaiah 40:1-5; 9-11 - Dec. 1, 1996
(5) Adapted from "Dynamic Illustrations" - April, May, June, 2000