“Stepping Off the Sideline,” Luke 5: 17-26

So last week we introduced an issue: the final command or direction of Jesus is for his followers to go and to make disciples, and most of us don’t do it. 8% of Americans have at least one spiritual conversation a week, 15% once a month, three-fourths of Americans who call themselves Christians have fewer than ten in a year. We also introduced a potential solution to this issue: one person. One person in each and everyone of our lives that we can commit to praying for, to deepening our relationship with, to inviting to church, one person that we can commit to trying to draw closer to Jesus. Last week we looked at call stories, and how the people who Jesus called to be his disciples and the people God called into service throughout scripture can help us recognize our own calling, this week we’re going to look at the next step after recognizing this issue: how do we do something about it.

Tuesday night was the NBA draft lottery (I know most of y’all don’t care about the NBA but bare with me). The Hornets season ended in great disappointment, they went on a nice little run at the end, needed to win their last game to make the playoffs and got blown out at home by their former coach, it might have been Kemba’s last game, it was lot. But I got over. And then Tuesday night they have the draft lottery and what happens there is instead of the lottery being based on rankings like in football (the worst team gets the best pick) the rankings give you odds and then they draw the order. So the worst team has the best chance at the number one pick, this year it is gonna be Zion, but everyone has a chance. The Hornets had a 1.6% chance. Which isn’t zero. And for a moment I got my hopes up, Zion’s staying home…and then they announced the Hornets at pick 12 and New Orleans, who stole the Hornets from Charlotte originally (never forget), are going to get him.

Fandom is a weird thing isn’t it? The things we let impact our mood are just silly. I think I’ve mentioned before a co-worker of my parents who had to get stitches all up his arm, legitimately almost lost the use of his hand due to nerve damage, because after a Tennessee Football loss he went outside to swing a golf club into a tree to work out his anger and the club snapped and cut him. Over 18-year old’s playing a game. And on the one hand that’s silly and I can laugh about it but on another real level I’m horrified because I kind of get it. Fandom is an interesting thing, at its root it makes us feel good, we feel like we’re a part of something, we feel involved, but we don’t actually have to do anything. I can feel all the highs of a football game without getting hit, I can feel the excitement of victory without getting any of the blame in the defeat, it is kind of a best of both world scenario. The problem is that a lot of us let that fan mentality take over other parts of our lives. A lot of us are simply fans when it comes to our faith. Kyle Idleman wrote a book where he diagnosed this problem called Not a Fan and he said this “my concern is that many of our churches have gone from being sanctuaries to stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.”

It’s sideline Christianity. And its one of the reasons those statistics we looked at earlier are true. So with that in mind lets look back at this passage we read, because it shows a group of people who are were definitely not content to sit on the sidelines. And the first thing we see about these men is that they had a mission: they wanted to see their friend walk. And everything they did was a part of that mission. That’s what missions do, they define our goals for us, they steer us in the right direction. The fist thing that companies do when they form is define what that mission is, because that is going to steer every decision. You can’t hire a staff and build a headquarters and start a marketing campaign if you don’t know what it is your company is going to be doing. That has to come first.

Your life has a mission. Maybe it is clearly defined for you, you know it and repeat it to yourself and have it on a sign over your front door and you tap it before you leave every morning like you’re Notre Dame playing like a champion today, or maybe you couldn’t put it into words, there is still something driving you. For some people its wealth, for some people its prestige and recognition, for some of us we’re just trying to survive from day to day, what ever it is it drives all of your decisions. Do you have a kingdom mission? Do you have a mission that calls your mind to things eternal not temporary? The people who built this church did. In 1850 a group of people agreed that their mission was to share the gospel in this community. Maybe that’s a good mission for us. The people who brought you to church or invited you to church or taught you in Sunday School, they had a kingdom mission in mind. Do we? Do we give the things of the kingdom the same attention as the things of the world?

These men had a mission, they also had eager expectation. They believed earnestly that if they got their friend to Jesus he’d be healed. And it led them to do a ridiculous thing. Digging a hole through the roof was a weird way to go about it, but that’s how committed they were, that’s how expectant they were about what would happen if they got this man to Jesus. I think about Joshua, who is chosen to lead the people into the Holy Land, comes up to the first city he needs to take, goes to God in prayer, and God’s response is “here’s how you’re going to take the city: give everyone a trumpet.” Blow horns, bang drums, yell and shout, walk around the city and it will fall. Can you imagine when he had to go back to the people with that plan. “Really, this is what the guy who is supposed to lead us thinks we should do? This is the brilliant military strategy?” But they do it, because they expect God to come through. Faith requires expectation. If we’re going to leave the sidelines we have to have eager expectation about what God can do.

The last thing I want to point out from these men is that when they encountered an obstacle they kept going. It would have been easy to get to the door, see the crowd, and turn around and go home. “Oh well, I guess that wasn’t meant to be.” Digging a hole in the roof probably wasn’t the most efficient use of their time. It probably wasn’t the most practical allocation of their resources. It was the only way to get their friend to Jesus, and the believed getting their friend to Jesus would let him walk. And they were right. If you’ve got your mission, if you’re trusting God and carrying out that mission with expectation, don’t let the first closed door turn you off of it. That’s a sideline mentality.

When I was in the 8th grade I played football because the football team got to wear their jerseys on Thursdays before games and I thought that would impress a girl. It did not. But I had a pretty good time, sitting on the bench, only going in during blow-outs, nothing really expected of me. Some of us have gotten tricked into that kind of faith. Some of us settle for the sidelines because its easy and its simple and we don’t have to worry too much about it. Jesus doesn’t ask for fans. Jesus asks for followers. And followers step off the sidelines and do something. What are you going to do? Who’s your one?

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