The Rewards of Following Jesus

May 22, 2005

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Matthew 28:16-20

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!  When I decided to preach this series on our discipleship, I didn’t realize that this particular Sunday, Confirmation Sunday, would be the day when we would be reading about the Great Commission. Let’s set the stage. Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, and He told His disciples to meet Him on a certain mountaintop. They did. And Jesus gave them their marching orders, and yours and mine, and He gave them a promise, too.

 

Let’s remember what He said on that mountaintop: Jesus said to them, “All authority, in heaven and on earth, has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commended you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of time.” With that, He ascended into heaven.

 

He left us with this wonderful, consoling message that wherever we go and whatever we go through, He is right by our side, with us, helping us, caring for us, guiding us. But He also left us with marching orders. His marching orders were to go and make disciples of all nations. We translate that in our mission statement as “Our mission is to help people become deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ,” because, after all, a disciple is a deeply committed follower.

 

We have a very strong command from our Lord and Savior to do this, and a very exciting command. This morning, I’d like to talk with you about the rewards of being a follower of Jesus Christ. I have five rewards – I was going to have ten, but it’s Confirmation Sunday, so I have to keep it short – five rewards of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

 

Number one: I invite you to picture in this sanctuary a stone, a wonderful round, smooth, warm, solid stone, set right in the middle. That stone represents foundation. “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Christian friend, you have a foundation in life that is solid as a rock. As we go through life, there are many things that are attractive, enjoyable, things we like to do, but there is only one thing that can give us a solid foundation, and that is Jesus Christ. And you’ve got it! You’ve got the solid rock. You’ve got the friend that will never let you go. That’s the first reward of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

 

Now, on that wonderful round flat stone, I invite you to picture people holding hands in a circle, circling around, smiling as they go around the circle. Friend, the second reward of being a follower of Jesus Christ is that you’ve got family. Take a moment to look around this room. You are allowed to smile. Wave to folks. Look at the smiling faces. This is your family in Christ. I pray that each of you would take the time to learn each other’s names, because we are here for each other. When you are a follower of Christ, you’ve got family, here in this church and in every church you go by. You can point to every church and say, “That’s mine,” in the deep, spiritual way that it is, because we are all connected in Christ. We are all family and friends in Christ. You are not alone. The Savior is with you always, and family is with you always. I have witnessed this time and again among dear Christian people, perhaps by a hospital bedside, sharing the love of God one with the other and being family in Christ. You’ve got a foundation; you’ve got family.

 

Third, as you look around that circle, I invite you to picture in the middle a sparkling star, glimmering and shimmering light on all of us. What does that stand for? Friend, I don’t know how else to put it – that stands for fun. The church is fun! It really is. And if it isn’t, we’re so impoverished. A joyless Christian is a contradiction in terms. Not everything we do in the church is fun. You know that. But at times it just has to be. When we’re working in the garden or sharing a fellowship meal; when we’re talking during the coffee hour or shaking hands or sharing a joy, it’s got to be fun. Jesus was a man of joy. He wasn’t a dour individual. He was the kind of person people wanted to be around. He made people laugh. He made them smile. He gave them hope. And so it is for you and me. One of the rewards of being is a Christian is that it’s fun. There is joy in the Lord.

 

Now, I also invite you to picture a stainless steel framework around that circle of friends. You are part of the framework. That’s part of the fourth reward of being a follower. You are needed to help the framework, to be someone who helps out, someone who contributes. We are called upon to help one another and to help our church and be part of the framework. And isn’t it a joy to have something like that to do? It is.

 

The fifth reward, if you picture a glass ceiling – oh, we’ve got one! – over this wonderful structure, looking straight up into the heavens, is for the future. You are promised a future in Christ. Christ gives us a future, and a hope, something to look forward to. There is no end to our Christian growth – we can always learn more about God and how we can grow in God. And there is no end to our salvation in heaven. Jesus said, “Where I am, you also will be,” and we will be with Him forever. At the top of that roof, that glass roof of the future, picture a glowing cross. It is the friendship of Jesus Christ, which is yours forever, a two-way street. What could be better than that?

 

What are the rewards of being a follower of Jesus Christ? You’ve got a foundation. You’ve got family. You’ve got fun. You’ve got a framework. You’ve got a future. And you’ve got friendship. Oh, my goodness, was that six? Please forgive me! That’s one extra, for good measure. And that is yours – welcome, confirmands, to the family of God. Welcome, everyone, to the family of God. God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.

 

© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski