Risk Takers: Risk It All

April 8, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker

Sermon Notes

Let’s talk about what it takes to risk it all. In the early 1900’s, before the Industrial Revolution, almost all of America’s wealth was tied up in the land. If you owned a piece of property, that wasn’t just your fortune, but your family’s future belonged to that land. That was almost exclusively how money in America was made. It was made on the land. In fact, people had this term they used for each other. They called each other “land rich” and “cash poor” because all that you had was in the land, and all that your family hoped to possess was in the land. Nothing would make you be willing to give up the family farm. That was your livelihood; that was your children’s future, and nothing could prompt you to give up the farm.

Today the question that I want us to wrestle with is: What would it cost? What would you be willing to go all in for? What would you be willing to put it all on the line, to mortgage it all for, to be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary? The real question that I want us to get to is, what would you be willing to bet the farm on? Because when you were betting the farm, you weren’t just betting your future. It was more severe than betting your own life. Betting the farm meant, “I’m putting my family’s future at stake.” This was for most of American history. The greatest challenge, the greatest risk, the greatest leap of faith that anybody could be asked to do was to “bet the farm”.

Today we are going to look at the leap of faith. The leap of faith is always head first. I’m talking about surrendering everything. Giving total, absolute control to Jesus. There is no dipping your toe in the water exploring this a little bit. There’s no waiting around trying to figure out if you really believe this or not. The leap of faith according to the Bible is all or nothing. There’s no middle ground here. Now don’t get me wrong; if you’re new to church, the Bible commands people who are paying attention to what they are hearing today to then they go back and research it in the Bible and look for themselves and decide, Do I really believe what this guy is saying? The Bible honors people who do that. But they don’t call that biblical faith.

The biblical faith that the Bible describes for us is jumping in head first off of the cliff, no holds barred, holding nothing back, going all in. It’s bet-the-farm kind of faith. What does this leap of faith that the Bible is asking us to make, this leap of faith in Jesus, what does it really look like? When you take the leap, when you go head first and follow Jesus 100%, whole heartedly, it’s going to radically change your priorities. -Not just a little bit; it’s going to change them completely, which means some of the stuff that was important to you before coming to Jesus is not going to be that important to you after following Jesus. Some things that didn’t mean anything to you before you surrendered to Jesus are going to become really important to you after surrendering to Jesus. This is not something Jesus expects; this is something Jesus demands of His followers.

The leap of faith:

I. Requires a radical change of your priorities

The biblical faith that the Bible describes for us is jumping in head first off of the cliff, no holds barred, holding nothing back, going all in. It’s bet-the-farm kind of faith. What does this leap of faith that the Bible is asking us to make, this leap of faith in Jesus, what does it really look like? When you take the leap, when you go head first and follow Jesus 100%, whole heartedly, it’s going to radically change your priorities. -Not just a little bit; it’s going to change them completely, which means some of the stuff that was important to you before coming to Jesus is not going to be that important to you after following Jesus. Some things that didn’t mean anything to you before you surrendered to Jesus are going to become really important to you after surrendering to Jesus. This is not something Jesus expects; this is something Jesus demands of His followers.

Luke 14:25-27
Now great crowds were traveling with him. So he turned and said to them: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

There are some hard words in this verse. This is really tough teaching, and I think we should deal with three words here. I don’t have time to unpack this whole verse. If you want to know the full description of what He’s saying here, go back and listen to the sermon series on Luke. We dealt with this in great detail. But I do want to focus on three words right now. One, is the word “hate”. -Because if we were honest we would say, “Jesus, it would have been easier for us if You would have said, ‘…likes Me more than he likes his mom and dad, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even their own life.’” We could have said, “Jesus, it would have been easier on us if you would have said, ‘In order of priority, I am above them, right?’” But that’s not what He says here. He is making this definitive, all-or-nothing statement. He is not contradicting the 10 Commandments here, the commandment to honor your father and mother. That’s not what Jesus is describing. He is putting you on the spot and not giving you the room to find a middle ground. There is no middle ground in this passage. It’s either Him or everyone else. You can’t have both, and they both can’t be on the same plane- the same playing field with you. That’s a hard word.

But the second hard word is “cannot”. You cannot call yourself a disciple of Jesus if you place anything or anyone on the same playing field.

The third, probably hardest, word is the word “cross”. If you’ve been to church before, you know that the cross was a form of Roman execution. The Roman government would punish you by death. But this kind of execution was very brutal, and it was very public. If the Roman government wanted to execute you for a crime, it could easily, quickly, just cut your head off. That’s easier on them and it’s actually easier on the person being executed, to just be beheaded, than crucifixion. Crucifixion was reserved for the kind of criminals that Rome wanted to make a public display of. This was long-term, took a long time- it was public torture. This was reserved for the kind of people that Romans wanted everyone to see what they’re going through and learn a lesson from this person.

Did you catch what Jesus is doing here? He’s saying, “If you’re not willing to make this kind of total sacrifice, if you’re not willing to make this kind of radical change in your priorities and if you’re not willing to make it public, don’t call yourself My disciple.” This is not something that you can’t keep in the closet. This is all-or-nothing, 100%, no holds barred. It is a public surrender to Jesus and a continuous public surrender to Jesus. He doesn’t give you the option of a private faith here. Jesus is challenging you to do something that Phillip did over the phone this Thursday.

A guy by the name of Phillip gave me a phone call this Thursday, and it’s amazing how God worked these circumstances out. I heard a brilliant man today say, “There are no coincidences with God.” Phillip reached out to me after 15 years. We haven’t had anything to do with each other for 15 years. On the phone this Thursday Phillip said something like this, “Jeff, I have a successful business; I own my own company in upstate New York; I have a great family, two wonderful sons…On paper I have everything that you could possibly ask for, and I am totally miserable. I’ve been miserable for a long time. I can’t even understand why, but I just felt over and over again that I need to reach out to you.”

Phillip and I haven’t had anything to do with each other since 2003 in Afghanistan when I was his chaplain. He said, “I’m calling you, Jeff, because I need some help. I don’t know where to turn to. I’m miserable, and I’ve got everything that you could ask for. I don’t know where to go or what to do next.” I had the privilege of saying, “It’s no coincidence that God has been putting my name on your mind over and over again. It’s not an accident that you reached out to me, because I can tell you what’s missing in your life. You’ve got the power and the prestige of owning your own company. You’ve got family. You’ve got everything else that you could possibly want. But the thing that you are created for, the thing that is missing, is a relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ. Phillip, if you want that, today you’ve got to be willing to surrender it all.”

And that man, over the phone, prayed to receive Jesus Christ. After it was over with, Phillip said, “I can’t even explain this, but I’m shaking right now because of what’s just happened to me.” Phillip made this radical change in his priorities, this radical surrender. Family is not that important anymore. Business isn’t that important anymore. Jesus just became first place in his life. My mentor, Dr. James Merritt, in Atlanta puts it this way, “You cannot be both a distant follower and a disciple of Jesus at the same time. Jesus doesn’t give you that option. If you’re a distant follower, don’t call yourself a disciple. If you’re a disciple, you can’t follow Him from a distance.” It is a radical change in your life- a radical change in your priorities. This is what we teach as a church around here: that we’re going all-in, we bet the farm on making disciples, and we will do whatever it takes to finish the mission of God in our lifetime. That’s what the gospel, the good news that Jesus saves sinners, asks of us that have been changed by Jesus.

Here’s the second thing that the leap of faith looks like. The leap of faith demands total surrender. There’s no holding anything back here. There’s no keeping a little bit for yourself and still following Jesus at the same time.

II. Demands total sacrifice

One of my heroes in the faith is a German pastor and theologian by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was the kind of man who, when he saw what was happening in his own country in Nazi Germany, took it into his own hands to do whatever was necessary to stop Adolf Hitler and his ruthless destruction of most of Europe. Bonhoeffer was eventually imprisoned for it and eventually executed for his role in trying to stop his own country’s leader. This German Lutheran pastor became one of Hitler’s “wanted” men. Bonhoeffer easily settled whether or not he was willing to go to his death for what he believed in. In fact, he settled it long before Hitler came to power in Nazi Germany. He wrote a book called The Cost of Discipleship. Here’s the thesis from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship: When Christ calls a man or a woman, He bids him to come and die. You settle this and everything else is easy after this. This is total surrender. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “When Christ called you, He called you to a total surrender. He called you to come and to die.”

This is what the Bible was describing for us in Matthew 13. Jesus uses two similar analogies to drive His point home:

Matthew 13:44-46
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. 46 When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.

Buying that pearl, buying that land, cost him everything. Jesus is describing a business transaction here, and this business transaction is 100% total surrender. It’s all or nothing. You can’t afford it if you’re going to hold anything back. If you’re going to make this transaction, it’s going to cost you everything.

I want you to put yourself for just a second in the place of the one who bought the field. You have been looking for years; you have been working for years; you’ve been saving for years to buy a little bit of land and to build your family’s dream home. You’ve been looking around Harris County, GA or around Russell County, AL, but you can’t afford a piece of land like that. You decide to look somewhere else, and you drive around Barbourr County, AL or maybe you’re around Marion County, GA, and you see a sign on the side of the road that says there’s some land for sale.

So, you pull your truck over, and you decide to walk this land. You figure you’re not going to get shot, because it’s for sale, and you decide to walk the land and to see, Is there a piece of property here that would be a good spot for my family’s dream home? I’ve been saving and working and dreaming about this for my life.

And you see this depression in front of you, and inside that depression, you see a black puddle, and in that black puddle, you look at what appears to be crude oil. It’s a very small black puddle, but it’s a puddle on that piece of land, no less.

Do you make the trade? Do you buy the land? Because here’s the business deal that Jesus is offering you: If you want this piece of land, you’d better be willing to sell the car, clean out the bank account, take all of your family heirlooms and put them up for sale. You’d better be willing to sell your cell phone and even the very clothes on your back. You’re going to have to go to the mortgage lender in your underwear if you want that piece of property. How badly do you want that piece of property? What Jesus is, you would be crazy not to make the purchase if you knew what that property has to hold in the future. In fact, he says, “Not only do you make that deal, because you know you’re going to benefit a whole lot more in the future than what it’s costing you right now (and it’s costing you everything right now). You make that deal with joy, because you know your future is going to be much better off. But, it’s going to cost you 100% total surrender right now.

That’s what Jesus is asking of people. This is what separates Christianity from all other faiths out there. Jesus isn’t offering any middle-of-the-ground here. He’s not giving you any kind of middle road here. This isn’t the 5 pillars of Islam and working your way to Heaven. This isn’t trying to be a good person and attain enlightenment in Buddhism. This isn’t reincarnation and coming back as a better person the second time in Hinduism. This is all or nothing life surrender to Jesus. This is what it looks like to be a risk taker, to go all in and to bet the farm and to risk it all.

The closest example of this that I could give you is like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. There are no second chances here. Either you make it, or you don’t make it. A guy really did this about 18 months ago, a guy by the name of Luke Aikins in July 2016. At 25,000 feet, he jumped out of an airplane with no parachute. -free fall to the ground and landed in a net about 1/3 the size of a football field.

Luke set a Guinness World Record for this jump that no one before him has ever attempted something like that and pulled it off successfully. The best that I know, no one after him has ever tried it. The stunt was broadcast live when he did it. The title of the stunt is “Heaven Sent”. Probably the reason why it is called “Heaven Sent” is because if you miss the net, you’re going to get sent to Heaven right there. I mean, if you don’t hit the net…that’s why nobody else has tried it since Luke.

But, here’s the truth: Jesus is asking you to do something very much like this. There’s no halfway in and halfway out of the airplane. It’s all or nothing. Are you willing to make this kind of total surrender? Are you willing to go all in and risk it all or not? -because there’s no middle road here, and the reward far outweighs the risk when you realize the Kingdom of Heaven is at stake.

You see, Jesus is saying, “The leap of faith, this head first leap over the cliff, trust me, and I am waiting for you after you take that leap. It will radically change your priorities. It will radically change your life. But it’s going to require a total surrender.”

III. Is a constant commitment

But, it doesn’t happen just one. I want you to listen carefully. It is a constant leap of faith. It is an every-day, getting up, and all over again surrendering 100% to Jesus. -dying to the flesh and living for Christ that he’s calling us to. The leap may have happened one time a long time ago when you were a little girl or a little boy, but it’s required of you every day, all day long. This is demonstrated for us in 1st Corinthians chapter 6. Listen to this passage from the Bible:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, 10 no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. 11 And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

The list that we’re reading in the Bible today, it’s terrible. But this list is true of all of us. Maybe you didn’t do all of those things, but I know you’ve done some of those things. -Because all of us before coming to Jesus, we worshipped an idol. Typically, that idol is ourselves. And then Jesus asks you to stop worshipping yourself and start worshipping him. You went from being an idolater to being a follower, a totally-surrendered, born again, follower of Jesus. Or maybe you were one of the thieves in this passage. You think, Hey Jeff, I’m not a thief. Oh yeah? Have you ever walked through the produce aisle of a grocery store and plucked a grape that didn’t belong to you and ate it without paying for it? That makes you a thief.

Maybe you didn’t do everything on this list, but you’ve done some things on this list. As God as my witness, I pray that we will be a church like this list right here. -of people who were idolaters and adulterers and thieves and greedy. But (the very next words) but we were changed by Jesus Christ, and we’re not like that anymore.

I want you to pay close attention. Look at 2 things. Did you notice that this list that he gives us, this is a list of actions, but then he says, “This is who you were.” It’s not something that you did. That’s who you were. But you’re not that person anymore. You did those things because you were that person, and you don’t do those things anymore, because you’re not that person anymore. You’ve been changed at the identity, at the core level by Jesus, and now you don’t do those things anymore, because you’re not that man or that woman anymore.

But the real reason I selected this passage for us today is because of that word sanctified. That word, sanctified, is a word that is a snapshot in time, and the snapshot in time says, “I don’t look today like I used to look before coming to Jesus.” And if you were to take a picture of me 6 months or 60 years from now, I won’t look the same 6 months or 60 years from now, because God is making me into the image of Jesus. I’m not talking about your skin color. I’m not talking about wrinkles on your face. I’m talking about in your heart and in your character. The word sanctified means being made like Jesus, and if you took a picture of who I was and compared it with who I am, it’s not the same anymore, and if you compare that picture with who I’m becoming, I hope to God it’s not the same in the future as who I am today.

I am changed because I took the leap of faith, and every day, I get up out of bed, and I take that leap all over again. Every day, I take the faith that saved me, and I walk in that faith and ask it to sustain me all over again today. I walk by faith today, not by sight, because of what has changed inside of me.

I was really wrestling with an example of what does this look like in our culture today? What does it look like to be sanctified? You’ll be fascinated to think this is the best example that I could come up with. It’s like having a tattoo on your forehead. Here’s the truth: I’m not arguing for or against tattoos, but I would suggest, don’t get a tattoo on your forehead unless you’re 100% convinced that’s what you want to be recognized for, for the rest of your life. And if you’re thinking to yourself, Yeah Jeff, but they can laser that stuff off today. No, they really can’t. It’s just going to leave some grey/green blob on your forehead. It’s going to look stupid if you have it lasered off. So, if you’re going to do that, you’d better own that for the rest of your life, which means when you go to the grocery store tomorrow, there’s no hiding that tattoo on your forehead. You can’t cover it up with clothes. When you go to the checkout line of the grocery store, when you go to work tomorrow, everyone is going to see that, and you can’t hide it.

And the next day, and the next day, and the next day…You’re going to have to explain that tattoo to your children and to your grandchildren. There’s no going back if you’re going to make that kind of commitment. A tattoo on the forehead is about as extreme as you can get, because it never ever goes away, and you can’t cover it up.

And what Jesus is asking of people is a constant, total surrender. Not just, “One time when I was a little girl, I walked an aisle, or when I was a little boy, I prayed a prayer with a preacher.” That’s the start of the leap of faith, but the leap of faith is every day getting out of bed and deciding, “Today, I’m going to live my faith out all over again. I’m going to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m not trusting in myself.”

That’s why the leap of faith is always head first. There is no toe-in-the-water here. It’s all or nothing. Go all in, and in when you make that leap, Jesus is waiting for you on the other side.

Next Steps

• I’m ready to make the leap of faith. Today, I surrendered to Jesus for the first time.
– I’ve let fear hold back my faith lately. Pray for me to risk it all on Jesus this week.
+ I will take up my cross and crucify my old sinful desires this week.

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you have to give up in order to become a Christian? (Be specific.)
  2. For some people, their past experiences push them toward total surrender to Jesus. For others, their past experiences hold them back from totally surrendering to Jesus? (What is the difference?)
  3. Why does Jesus refuse to let people follow him who aren’t willing to make a total surrender?
  4. Read Exodus 20:12. How can you fulfill this commandment and Luke 14:26 at the same time?
  5. Can you wade gradually into the waters of the Christian faith, or is it always an all-or-nothing moment?
  6. Did you make a radical commitment to Jesus yesterday? (If so, explain how. If not, explain when was the last time that you made a radical commitment.)
  7. Pray for each of us to relentlessly pursue Jesus this week.

The post Risk Takers: Risk It All appeared first on Calvary Baptist Church.

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