Over the past couple of years I've
realized one of the most controversial subjects one can engage
in isn't war, homosexuality, politics, or which type of
worship service is most appropriate. The most controversial
subject today is Jesus, who he is, whose son he is, whether he
was crucified, was he married, and was he resurrected.
If you don't believe me try this
experiment next time you're in a group of people. In the
course of your normal discussion with folks begin to mention
the name Jesus and see if people don't start to slip away
slowly, or find an excuse to go chat with someone else.
It seems we can talk about our church
or a specific ministry we're involved in and people don't
mind. But bring up Jesus, and watch out, eyebrows get raised,
people begin to squirm, and an uncomfortable feeling begins to
roll in like a dense fog. Soon you can just feel the tension
in the room; it's so thick you can cut it with a knife, as
they say. Jesus has this knack, that because of his teaching
he forces people to take a side. It's hard to be on the fence
about Jesus. His teaching and character force a decision that
either your for him or against him. He challenges people to
make a stand. He leaves no option apart from making a
This fact is never more evident then
in our Gospel reading this morning when Jesus says, "I tell
you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and
drink his blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53)
Now while his statement is symbolic,
it nevertheless requires a commitment. With Jesus there is no
middle of the road, or straddling the fence if you will. With
Jesus it's all or nothing. To put it very bluntly, in choosing
or not choosing Jesus you are choosing between life or death,
you're either for him or against him; you either follow him or
C.S. Lewis in his book Mere
Christianity explained the controversial nature of Jesus this
way. "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things
Jesus said wouldn't be a great moral teacher. He'd either be a
lunatic…or else he'd be the devil of hell. You must make your
choice. Either this man is the Son of God, or else a madman or
something worse…But don't let us come up with any patronizing
nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He hasn't left
that open to us. He didn't intend to."
Jesus can demand our all because he
gave his all
- in coming to this earth as a little
- growing up and living in this world
to better understand what it's like to live in a world of
temptation and sin; " he sacrificed his life for our sins;
- and he chose to stay on the cross
when it would have been easy for him to leave it, and us
behind. So friends we have a choice; we are either with
Jesus or not.
The sad truth is there are many who
claim to be Christian who haven't made this level of
commitment. They live on the fringe, their fringe dwellers.
And I suggest there are three kinds of fringe dwellers.
The ones who intentionally live on the
fringe, those who feel their unworthy to make a wholistic
commitment to Christ, and still there are those who start out
on the fringe but desire to move into a more committed
relationship with Christ.
Let's first consider those who
intentionally dwell on the fringe. These are the folks, who
come out on Christmas and Easter, or they find a church where
they can hide, some even just come to be entertained. They'd
like a miracle or two, and they'd like to have a prayer
answered as the need arises.
These folks are curiosity seekers,
their more comfortable hiding in the wood work rather than
being involved in their faith. They are consumers, never
giving, only taking. They're the ones who have the well
prepared excuses of why they can't serve or actively
participate. You see I know what this kind of fringe dweller
is because many years ago I used to live on the fringe.
I was a "fair weather" follower,
always looking forward to Christmas, Easter, and the special
programs the church would put on during the year. I liked
hiding in the shadows of the church and as long as everything
was going my way (meaning people were leaving me alone and I
could keep my faith private), I was willing to show up on
So as long as no one asked me to make
a commitment to the church, to really practice my faith in a
tangible, way I was willing to support the church with some
minimum giving of my income like I was buying a ticket for a
show, and I was willing to grace the church with my presence
on Sunday morning, like I was doing everyone else a favor.
I understand why living on the fringe
seems easier, why touching the cross rather than embracing it,
is more comfortable.
But one day when I finally said yes to
playing basketball with some guys from the church, my life
changed. Before too long I was serving in different
ministries, and eventually even agreed to serve as the
stewardship chair person.
Living on the fringe was no longer
appealing. I realized something was missing in my life, and I
new the place to find purpose and true life was in Christ. And
I realized hiding and being partially committed to Christ's
church was not the answer.
The second kind of fringe dweller is
the person who feels because of their past or present they
aren't worthy to be counted among the faithful. They feel as
if they need to become worthy before they can present
themselves before the Lord, or worse yet they feel they never
The truth is we can't make ourselves
worthy. On our own none of us is worthy to be in the presence
of God. This is why Jesus came and gave his life for us, so
that by paying the debt for our sins we become worthy before
God. To become worthy we need Christ, there is no other way.
So if you're dwelling on the fringe
because you feel unworthy, I invite you to follow Jesus, seek
his forgiveness and commit yourself fully to his saving grace.
As you do you will see that when Jesus becomes your Savior and
the Lord of your life, you are worthy and equal among the
The third kind of fringe dweller are
those folks who are relatively new to the faith or who are
nominal Christians, and desire a closer relationship with
Christ but aren't sure what to do. I think many folks start
their faith journey in this place.
To grow a deeper, closer and far
reaching relationship with Christ you need to get involved in
your faith. Maybe not jump in with both feet right away but
certainly we need to start by getting our feet wet and then
slowly wade in.
- We need to worship weekly,
- We need to read the Bible and begin
to understand its teaching,
- We need to interact with other
Christians through fellowship,
- We need to serve others,
- And then ultimately we need to
share our faith with those who may be beginning the journey
themselves. In other words, become part of our Discipleship
We don't learn to play a sport well,
or drive a car, without doing some preparatory work. Well,
faith doesn't come through osmosis either. Last night I tried
an experiment. I put a Bible under my pillow before going to
sleep with the hope of waking up in the morning more
knowledgeable about the Bible than before I went to bed. It
didn't work. Faith takes time, it takes work, and it takes
commitment, it doesn't just happen.
As I reflect back on my fringe
dwelling days I've come to realize that being a fringe dweller
really wasn't easier than being fully committed to Jesus as I
had thought, it took a lot of work to avoid people and to push
aside the leading of the Holy Spirit.
When I finally said enough of this
living on the fringe and told myself to move out of the
shadows and get off the fence, I began to experience real joy.
Once I stepped up to the cross and began fully embracing it I
began to experience and understand the unexplainable blessings
I heard people talking about.
Now needless to say my fringe dwelling
life is not something I'm real proud of, but I'm glad I
experienced it because I can understand what many fringe
dwelling Christians are going through. And it makes the
journey I've been on since that time, all the sweeter.
Becoming a faithful follower does
require work and it's not always easy, and honestly we may not
experience all the rewards of following Christ in this life,
but the eternal retirement plan makes following very
So what is a faithful follower?
Faithful followers are loyal to the
end. When the going gets tough they can be counted on. Through
think and thin they are there for others. When the going gets
rough they don't give up.
Faithful followers are participators
in the Lord's work, " they are committed to ensuring the
Gospel message is shared, and that life-time faith development
continues to take place. " They are contributors. " They don't
just take and give; they give and share even more. " They have
crossed the line and have committed their whole self to Jesus.
" They have taken to heart the words of Jesus, "Whoever eats
my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will
raise him up at the last day." (John 6:54)
The lives of faithful followers are
characterized by bold obedience, total commitment, and
complete surrender. " Jesus is their master, their Lord, and
their leader. " They give their all. " They choose life over
death. " They can be trusted to the very end. " They follow
Jesus not because he's attractive or promises an easy life;
but because they love him.
I have known a great many people whom
I would call faithful followers. And we have honored one today
with a stain glass window. Ralph and his 73 years of service
to Christ and this church provides for us a real example of a
Ralph accepted Christ in 1930 at the
age of 12 and became a member of this congregation. From that
moment, until his death in 2003, I understand he stood as a
shining example of what a faithful follower is all about. And
the window dedicated today in his memory stands as a testament
to this truth.
So when it comes to following Christ
are you dwelling on the fringe or are you faithfully
Those who place their hope in the
Lord; will one day realize his promises, and when we die and
see Jesus face-to-face, we will live in the light of His
And always remember, those who hope in
the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings
like eagles." (Isaiah 40:31)
Read other messages by Pastor Wade