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This sermon was delivered on Sunday, September 8, 2013 to three churches in the United Methodist Baldwin County Circuit: Bethel UMC, Pleasant Grove UMC and Linton, UMC.

  1. I am very honored to be here today and feel unworthy of this task. Nevertheless I know that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me, so here goes…
  2. When Ted asked me to do the sermon this week I thought I’d end up talking about the past 5 months; but God has lead me down a different path.
  3. As I read the Scripture for this week I was drawn away from my current circumstances to talk about being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
  4. Read Luke 14:25–33
    25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
  5. Costs
    1. How many of you remember when gas was less than $1 a gallon? Do you remember when it went up?
      1. What happened?
        1. We started driving less; we were combining trips or determining whether we needed to go at all.
        2. What’s happened since?
          We’ve kind of gotten used to it, haven’t we? Even for me, among the unemployed, I don’t drive much less than I did before.
    2. Cost of following Jesus
      1. What do we typically think of when we think of the cost of following Jesus?
        1. He will be our shepherd
        2. He’s our advocate at the right hand of God the Father
        3. He paid for our sins
        4. He gives us eternal life
        5. He asks us to hate our relatives & our life itself
      2. Whoa, suddenly the cost has gone up! Hate our father and mother and spouse and children, our brothers and sisters?
        1. Is He crazy?
        2. What does all this mean? Let me try and explain it with two illustrations:
          1. In late June, 1863, there was a man named Harrison who was a “spy” for the Confederate army under Robert E. Lee. He wasn’t part of the army, officially. He was what we might call a “camp follower.”
            1. He believed in the cause.
            2. Yet, he was not in the army. He didn’t fight. He was a hanger-on.
            3. There were those who were following Jesus, but they weren’t disciples—they weren’t in the army so-to-speak. They were like our man Harrison.
    1. Second illustration:
      1. When I was a child we lived in Beaufort, SC for four years and we’d often go to the beach. Sometimes we’d pick up driftwood and my stepfather turned a couple of pieces into lamps. That was fun.
      2. Moving to Pennsylvania and living on the Condoguinet Creek, I remember having to clean up scores of driftwood from our property when the creek would flood. That wasn’t fun.
      3. Why is it called driftwood? It goes wherever the currents, be they oceans, rivers or creeks, take it. It has no mind of it’s own.I think we can either be driftwood or a canoe; let me explain:
      4. If you’ve seen the movie, League of Their Own, about a female baseball league, you may recall the character played by Tom Hanks exclaiming, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
        Well, there is no driftwood in discipleship. I believe that’s the point of this passage.

        1. Jesus isn’t calling us to literally hate our father, mother, etc.
        2. But, I believe he is calling us to fight against the currents that our culture creates. He’s calling us to a profoundly radical shift in our thinking and in our hearts.
          1. Culture is not neutral and ever since the Fall we have seen a culture that increasingly is more and more corrupt. If we’re not alert to it’s influences, culture will “buy, sell & bag” us.
            1. In the late 70s, a friend of mine, Bill Romanowski tried his hand at writing songs and performing them. While his career never took off, I remember these lyrics to his song on Madison Avenue, entitled “Madison”—the chorus went like this:…you bought me, sold me, bagged me
              But no more, Madison
              I won’t be a self-bought man…
              Bill was singing about being a canoe, fighting the corruption of our culture. When we fully give into the corruption in the culture around us, primarily though our choices, including what we buy, our souls become corrupt—a corruption that we paid for! We become a “self-bought” man.
      5. Living on that creek holds some of my fondest memories. I had a boat and I could go wherever I wanted to. I could go against the currents.
        1. So, in a sense, I believe that Jesus is calling us out of our driftwood existence to a life as a canoe.
        2. Being a ‘canoe,’ being a disciple of Jesus means that our relationship with Him defines who we are—not our actions, not our past, not the ‘current’ of the culture. We are not driftwood.
    2. Let’s go back to the passage for a minute.Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple.
      1. Strong language that term, “hate.” But, you see the expression used here for “hating” means “loving less”—(not as we think today as the opposite of love)Okay, I can almost hear a collective sigh of relief, “Okay, I can live with that. Good sermon, let’s go home.”
      2. Not so fast… for you see that even if we soften the word “hate,” Jesus is still calling us to make family and self subordinate to following Him.
      3. If we don’t make those things subordinate, we fall into the trap of “easy believism”—easy believism leads to “going with the flow” and guess what, we’re back to being driftwood.
  1. In 1977 I was driftwood. I was going with the flow. I knew something was missing. I was a junior in college and like a lot of my friends I was open to whatever culture threw at me.
    1. But, I knew something was missing. I wanted to be a better person.
    2. One day that summer I was in a bookstore, saw a New Testament and shoplifted it! Shoplifting had become a habit with me (by God’s grace I was never caught).
      1. I took it home and decided to read a chapter a night before going to bed, thinking it would make me a better person. I wanted to read about the crucifixion and knew the Romans had done it, so I started in Romans. Talk about confused!
      2. I finally figured out that John was about Jesus, so I started there. I read a chapter a night.
      3. The fifth night I came across this passage:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.Originally, Jesus was talking to the Scribes and Pharisees—but that night He reached across the centuries and spoke to my heart. I remember feeling, “whoa, how does He know that’s what I’m doing?”
      4. But my heart wasn’t ready—I was too content being driftwood. I put the New Testament away and did not read it the rest of the summer.
    3. But, I knew a canoe. I met this guy when I was a freshman. He was a big-time religious guy and everyone knew he was a “Jesus-freak.” After that summer, I tried to avoid him. He was a canoe and I was driftwood, going in opposite directions.
      1. November 1977—I was so busy partying that Thanksgiving break snuck up on me and I didn’t have a ride home. In desperation, I called the canoe; his name is Ted Ewing.
      2. Ted did not live near me, but as he went home to Philadelphia, he would drop me off, literally along the side of the PA Turnpike under a bridge about ½ mile from my house—in those days you could bum a ride anywhere for $5 in gas money.
      3. So, went home for Thanksgiving. The following Sunday I met Ted at an inter-change on the turnpike and started back to school. Ted drove an Impala and there were six of us in the car. My seat? Front and center, right beside Ted.
      4. Knowing he was religious I thought I’d be smart and ask him about “end-times.” (Ever notice how our culture is fascinated with ‘end-times?’)
      5. Mistake (or so it seemed then); Ted spent the next three hours sharing the gospel with the whole car.
      6. We got back to school and Ted dropped me off last, apologizing for evangelizing the whole car. I replied, “I’d like to hear more.”
      7. We got together for dinner in the dining hall later in the week—Thursday, December 1, 1977. Ted started to re-share the gospel. I stopped him and said, “I know about that, I need to know what to do about it.”
      8. Right there, in Foster Dining Hall, praying with our eyes open, Ted led me to commit my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
      9. That day, my driftwood existence became a canoe.
      10. Yes, your pastor is named after Ted Ewing.
  2. Today are you driftwood or a canoe. Are you a solider or are you more like a camp-follower, like our man, Harrison?
    1. My prayer for you—for us—is that you:
      1. Count the cost of following Jesus; and
      2. Having counted that cost, you become a “canoe,” paddling in the wake created by Jesus’ canoe; His canoe will always be leading the way.
      3. It’s not easy; it’s much easier to drift with the currents; it’s much easier to casually search the Scriptures because you think it will make you a better person. But, guess what, it’s even easier to come to Jesus to have life and to have it abundantly.
      4. Sometimes you’ll lose your paddle and you’ll drift—but Jesus has an endless supply of paddles that are available, just ask.