HOW TO EXPERIENCE THE HEART OF REAL CHRISTIANITY
Intro: What does it mean to be a Christian? The answers you get to that
question depend on the persons asked. Some people believe that
belonging to a Christian church makes you a Christian. Others believer that
baptism or confirmation is what makes one a Christian. Still others believe
that being religious and morally clean is enough to allow one to wear the
But wait! Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one! How can
I say that? Because Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Roman Catholics
claim to be Christians. But, according to the Bible, they aren’t! So what
does it mean, then, to be a Christian?
To answer that question, let’s look at the word Christian itself. This
word literally means “The Christ Ones”. This name was first given to the
followers of Jesus in a place called Antioch, Acts 11:26. History tells us that
it was a term of contempt! The people of Antioch, who were pagans, were
offended by the clean lifestyles and the preaching of the believers and gave
them the name “Christian” as an insult. Instead of insulting these believers,
it perfectly summed up the image they were attempting to project to their
lost neighbors. So then, a Christian is a “Christ one” or “one who is like
You see, just going to of joining a church cannot make you a Christian.
Being a good moral person cannot make you a Christian. Just claiming the
name for yourself or for your organization does not make you a Christian.
In fact, just being saved cannot make you a Christian! To be a Christian
means that you become like Christ. We lump all saved people under the
title Christian, but real Christians are people live like Jesus Christ.
In this passage, Jesus is talking to His disciples about His impending
death, v. 21. He is immediately rebuked by Peter, v. 22. Jesus uses this
event as an opportunity to teach His men about the heart of real Christianity.
I want to focus our thoughts on verse 24 today. Because, it is in this verse
that we get down to the heart of what it means to be a Christian.
Why is this important? Because as individuals, many have no idea what
the Christian life is supposed to be about. And, because as a church, we
have left the heart of our faith behind in an effort to be found pleasing in the
sight of the world. This sermon and this passage is a call for believers to
return to the heart of what it means to be a Christian. I want to preach to
you today about How To Experience The Heart Of Real Christianity. I
want to point out the simple steps Jesus gives to us. If we will hear His
voice and heed His Words, then we can experience real Christianity and
impact our world for His glory!
I. WE MUST FIND OUR HEART
A. Jesus says “If any man will come after ME...” Jesus and Jesus
alone is to be the heart of all we do and of who we are as believers.
B. If we are going to experience the power of real biblical Christianity
ion our lives and in our church, then we are going to have to find our
heart! That simply means, “We are going to have to discover
what makes us tick!” We can begin this process by asking
ourselves a couple of very simple questions:
1. Why are you here today? (Ill. You always get what you come
d. To see and be seen
e. Love for the church
f. Love the Lord and desire to worship Him - This is the only
valid reason to attend church. You will always benefit from
coming, but we all need to reach the place where He is the
sole reason we attend.
2. Why does this church exist? Churches exist for lots of
reasons! Too often, they exist only because someone started it
a long time ago and the reason why has been long forgotten. I
would submit to you that there are only three valid reasons for
this, or any church to exist. If these things are not true about us,
then we do not deserve the name church and we certainly do not
qualify for the name Christian!
a. To Exalt Our Sovereign - John 4:23-24; Heb. 13:15
b. To Edify The Saints - Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Thes. 5:11
c. To Evangelize The Sinners - Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:19-20
(Note: All three of these can be seen in action in the life of the
early church - Acts 2:41-47.)
C. When the call “come after me” is issued by Jesus, it registers
differently depending upon the condition of the heart that hears it.
1. To the lost person it says Be Saved - Jesus can give you a new
heart - Eze. 36:26.
2. To the saved person it says Be Sold Out - Jesus can refocus
your heart! It is possible to be saved and active and still not
have a heart for Him - Rev. 2:1-7.
D. In all honesty today, not before me, but before God, what makes you
tick? What is the heartbeat of your life today? Do you, as an
individual need to rediscover your heartbeat? I know that, as a
church, we do!
II. WE MUST FOCUS OUR HEART
A. Jesus calls His disciples to “come after”. If we are really in love with
Him and He is the central love of our hearts, there will be a desire to
be where He is! (Ill. We need the same hunger to follow the Lord
that dwelled within the heart of David - Psa. 42:1-2.)
B . For the disciples of Jesus, this call to follow Him meant the forsaking
of everything else, Mark 1:16-20; Matt. 19:27-30. For us, it may
come to mean the very same thing - Matt. 10:37-39; Luke 14:26-27.
You see, your life boils down to nothing more than your priorities -
Mat. 6:33. You go where you want to go. You do what you want to
do. You follow who and what you want to follow. You are willing to
do what you love to do! The Lord’s call is for us to focus our hearts
upon Him and go with Him wherever He leads us.
C. The Psalmist said it this way, “O God, my heart is fixed;”, Psalm
108:1. David said it like this, “One thing have I desired of the
LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the
LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD,
and to enquire in his temple.”, Psalm 27:4. Paul said it like this,
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one
thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and
reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ
Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded:
and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal
even this unto you.”, Phil. 3:13-15. All three of these are instances
of single-minded devotion to follow the Lord wherever He leads.
D. What has your heart today? Who is on first in your life? May the
Lord help us all to come to the place where nothing in our lives
means more to us that Jesus Christ and His leadership. May He
become and remain the central focus of every individual heart in this
room and of this church as a body!
III. WE MUST FOLLOW OUR HEART
(Note: If Jesus has our heart, and if we are in love with Him more than
anything else in this world, and if we are focused on His will for us and
upon His leadership within our lives and the life of our church, then we
need to take whatever steps are necessary to see that we follow our
heart. If He is our heart, then let’s follow Him!)
A. We Are Called To Lay Something Down - Deny himself - This
phrase literally means, “to completely disown, to utterly separate
oneself from someone.” It is the same word used to describe
Peter’s denial of Jesus outside the high priests home, Matt. 26:34!
• The disciples is to utterly disown himself, to refuse to
acknowledge the self of the old man.
• We are to count the old man as being dead, Rom. 6:11.
• We are to make no provision for the flesh, Rom. 13:14.
• To deny oneself means to follow the example set forth by the
Lord Jesus Himself in coming to this world, Phil. 2:5-8.
• We are to live our lives as one alive to God, but dead to sin
and to the world, Gal. 2:20.
• It sounds hard because it is hard! Self does like to be
denied, but until it is, we cannot possibly follow after Jesus
like He desires for us to!
B. We Are Called To Lift Something Up - take up his cross - When
Jesus spoke of the cross, everyone in His audience knew what He
was referring to. Some have estimated that over 30,000 Jews were
crucified during the lifetime of Jesus alone. When Jesus says that
we are to take up our cross, He is saying that we are to live as dead
men! You see, to take up ones cross was to start upon a “death
march”. Their walk under that cross always ended up with them on
that cross. They began a process from which there was no
retreating and no turning back. To take up your cross was to
embrace the death of self! This is just what Jesus did when He
came to this world - Matt. 16:21-23; John 19, Mark 10:45. He set
the example that we are to follow.
To understand what this cross Jesus refers to is, we need to talk
about what it isn’t. It isn’t your lost husband or wife. It isn’t your
wayward children. It isn’t your mother-in-law. Your cross isn’t your
difficulties or the bad situations you face in life. The cross is not just
a place of suffering, it is a place of death!
To take up one’s cross means to willingly pick up and carry the
shame (Ill. People mocked men who carried the cross. Unlike today
when a person will carry one across America and draw cheers. A
man under a cross in Jesus’ day drew jeers!), the rejection, the
suffering and the death that Jesus Himself willingly carried for us.
To take up your cross means that you are willing to identify yourself
with Jesus Christ, His death and His word, regardless of what it
costs you personally, publically or financially! (Note: That’s not a
side of Christianity you hear very often! It isn’t popular to talk about
sacrifice, death and suffering, but that is what Christianity is all
about! The sooner we learn that truth, the sooner God can and will
send revival to His church and use us again for His glory!)
C. We Are Called To Live Something Out - follow me - We are called
upon to take up that cross, once for all, and go after Jesus. We are
not to back out, turn around, or lay down the cross. We are to die
on that cross, giving our all for His glory! This phrase has the idea
of being willing to go all the way for Jesus - no holds barred and no
turning back - just a steady, humble walk that follows His footsteps
and His path through this world. Jesus said it as simply as it could
possibly be said, John 12:26, “If any man serve me, let him follow
me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man
serve me, him will my Father honour.”
Conc: If you want to be saved, you can be, but there’s only one way that will
ever happen. That is through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. God
is inflexible and firm on that point. In fact, He has stated it this way, “Jesus
saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh
unto the Father, but by me.”, John 14:6. God has made up His mind
about that matter. If you want to be saved, you can be, but only on His
Friends, He is just as inflexible when it comes to this matter of being His
disciple! If you want to experience the real heart of Christianity, then you will
have to meet His terms. You see, you can have as much or as little of God
as you want. The question is, what do you want? If you want to be a
Christian disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, then I invite you to hear and heed
the words of the Savior. Then, come before Him, deny yourself, take up
your cross and follow Him. Until that happens in your life, you will never
experience all God has for you.