Why do we follow Jesus?

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Well, here we back in church! I’ve really enjoyed forest church for the past two Sundays, but it’s so good to be back here with you all again. Rebecca and I have spent the past month praying and trying to discern where God is calling us as a parish, and we both think we’ve heard God say this is the year to go deeper and wider.
OK, I admit that does sound a bit like Christianese. But do we wonder whether the invitation for us as a parish this year is to go deeper in our faith, and wider by spreading our faith and growing the church here in Newlands. When we’re sharing our faith our primary goal is to spread the good news of Jesus in our suburb - adding people to our church is a possible positive side effect.
So as Rebecca and I reflected on this we felt the best way to start was by drawing back to the reason we exist as St Michael’s - Jesus. Over the next four weeks we’re going to be working through four questions about Jesus, and today is....

Why do we follow Jesus?

I think this is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, and be prepared to answer. It’s a question we should be able to answer honestly and openly when asked - even if we’re met with blank stares or mockery. But it’s also a question that we should constantly be asking ourselves - if we don’t then we risk becoming numb to the Gospel, or worse still end up walking away from Jesus rather than after him.

So why do we need Him?

To quote Nicky Gumbel, former vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, and a huge player in the Alpha Course:
You and I were created to live in a relationship with God. Until we find that relationship there will always be something missing in our lives. As a result, we are often aware of a gap.
This is a gap that I’m sure we’ve all felt, mostly keenly perhaps before we gave our lives to Jesus. To me it feels like an emptiness, or not being complete - and as a teenager I tried all sorts of ways to fill that void. Not surprisingly, nothing worked.
It’s a gap that doesn’t magically go away completely when we follow Jesus - in my human frailty I still frequently experience that emptiness - and that’s when I have to remind myself to turn my eyes to Jesus again, and again, and again.
Being a Christian is primarily about being in a relationship, not just following a set of rules. As Nicky Gumbel said, we are created to be in a relationship with God - and God sent his own son, Jesus, to be with his people in a tangible way. When asked, Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is to love God. The second is to love our neighbour.
It’s all about relationship, and without a relationship with God we will, know it or not, hunger for it. It’s a hunger deep inside that money, alcohol, relationships, music, sport, or anything cannot satisfy.
Speaking of hunger, doesn’t the church smell great? Give me a second while I get that bread out to cool for Eucharist.
OK - it’s a bit of a stunt, but any guesses why I’m baking bread in church this morning? Jesus said that....

I am the Bread of Life

Jesus knew about this deep hunger we experience, and that only God can satisfy us. That’s why he said in John’s gospel
John 6:35 NET 2nd ed.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.
He is the only one who can satisfy our deepest hunger, because he is the one who makes it possible for our relationship with God to be restored.

I am the light of the world

Jesus also said that he was the light of the world. We all ask from time to time what the point of it all is. Jesus brings light to the world - bringing detail, texture, and clarity to the way we view our lives here on earth. Until we are living in a relationship with God we will never find the true meaning and purpose of our lives.
Now, making sure you’re awake - do you remember what the next 'I am’ saying is?

I am the door

If we are honest, we all do things that we know are wrong. Our greatest need, whether we realise it or not, is forgiveness. It’s a difficult one to explain to someone who is not on a Jesus journey, but a big part of that deep emptiness we feel stems from a need to be forgiven.
Jesus said:
John 10:9 NET 2nd ed.
I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture.
By his death on the cross Jesus made it possible for us to be forgiven and brought back into a relationship with God. In this way he supplied the answer to our deepest need.

I am the good shepherd

John 10:14 NET 2nd ed.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me—
There are so many things we can take away from this statement - but the main one I want you to hear today is that Jesus is talking about our relationship with him. It speaks of the two way relationship we can enjoy - we don’t just follow Jesus and worship him - he knows us, and we know him. Relationships are two way things.

I am the resurrection and the life

In this world, according to Benjamin Franklin, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
The truth is that we will all die. But it’s not something we really want to think about - most people do not want to die. We long to survive beyond death.
John 11:25 (NET 2nd ed.)
Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies,
Only in Jesus Christ do we find eternal life. Our relationship with God survives death and goes on into eternity.

I am the way, the truth, and the life AND I am the vine

The final two of the I am sayings - ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ and ‘I am the vine’ speak to us of the authority, the certainty, and the fruitfulness we can enjoy as God’s people. But this is all possible only through a deep and trusting relationship with Jesus. Jesus knew his disciples were a bunch of misfits and muck-ups - but he loved them, trusted them, and gave him full access to his life all the same. Praise God that he offers the same to us!
Jesus said that he was the way, the truth, and the life. That’s my answer, at the moment, to that important question - ‘why do I follow Jesus?’

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

As we’ve been working through the I Am sayings, you may have responded in different ways.
You might have noticed an emptiness in your soul.
You might have found glimmers of hope and reassurance.
Or you might have enjoyed a bit of a nap.
Wherever you are on your journey with Jesus, remember to keep turning your eyes to Him. In a moment we’ll listen a beautiful old hymn - if you know it then feel free to sing along, otherwise use this moment as a chance to look deep in to your soul, and ask Jesus to bring a new depth to your relationship with him.
Our prayer team will be available in the light house during communion - do go through to them if you have a prayer need, or if you want to commit or recommit yourself to Jesus - they’d love to pray with you.
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