October 1, 2023, The Benefit of Following Jesus, Pentecost 18

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If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

HYMN 714 I Know Whom I Have Believed
Marshall Hall – I know whom I have believed

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of and filled with your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 338 Where He Leads Me
Where He Leads Me – Willie Nelson

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: The Benefit of Following Jesus
Text: John 10:7-18, Matthew 4:17-20, Habakkuk 2:1-4
Series: The Benefits of Belief

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.


John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. 9 I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, 15 as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Habakkuk 2:1 I will take my stand to watch, and station myself on the tower, and look forth to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. 2 And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it. 3 For still the vision awaits its time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie. If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. 4 Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith.


HYMN 701 When We All Get To Heaven
Alan Jackson – When We All Get To Heaven (Live) – Gaither Music TV

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!


The new sermon series is about the benefits of belief. Because I feel that there is a great benefit that comes to all of us through our faith, through what we believe, and how that fuels our hope for a better life and stirs us up to do better in this life. And I’d like to begin by talking about what I see to be the significant benefit to each one of us of choosing to follow Jesus.

Because friends, life is often like this. Now, that’s an intersection in St. Louis. A close friend of mine, David Mueth, actually took that picture for St Louis Channel 5 News. Every now and then, your life and my life gets overwhelmed by a flood of troubles.

Not only that, we live in a state of being overwhelmed, particularly with information. You turn on the television, you open up your newspaper, you look at Facebook or something else. You’re constantly overwhelmed with bad news and the tiny little bits of good news. And what I’ve begun to notice is an overwhelming flood of gossip. When I scroll down on my phone to look at what Google wants me to read, it’s one article after another about some Hollywood actress that is mad at some other Hollywood actress for some reason. Well, let me just say this: One stupid reason after another.

We are overwhelmed with a flood of bad news and too much information, too much news, too much water, too many problems, whatever it is, and too much weight around my waist. Too much is not always good, and yet, Jesus comes and says that he wants to help us to live an abundant life. But a lot of our problems are caused by too much abundance.

But here’s what Jesus said in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I came ….” Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And consequently, Jesus says to us, “Believe that I am here to bless and to benefit you as you follow me.”

And not only that, you and I are not alone on this journey because when someone decides to follow Jesus, the closer they get to him, the closer they wind up getting to other people who are following him. We are not on this journey alone, but we’re traveling with Jesus. And because others are following him, we’re traveling with each other. We’re all in this together and we’re traveling together. So you see, as we make an individual decision to follow Jesus, that draws us into being part of a flock, a flock that we call church. And so I want to argue there are great benefits to being a part of a church. There are great benefits to following Jesus together.

Here’s one. We enjoy life more when we’re together. So, the SALT potluck’s coming up this week. Two kinds of soup. Now, I enjoy the soup, but I also enjoy the people. Life is better together.

In addition to that, we learn more together. And when you and I gather together to learn, we learn more because we’re with each other than you can learn all by yourself no matter how smart you are or no matter how smart you think you are. We learn more when we learn together.

When it’s time for work to be done, we get more work done when we work together with other people. These are firefighters. They are raking through the underbrush, looking for smoldering embers from a forest fire. Work goes so much faster when you do it with people, and they help each other. They help keep each other safe. We are better together.

And not only that, children grow up best in a family because families are how God helps people grow up. And if the family you grew up in wasn’t the best sort of family, well, you see, we get to choose our family. And for many people, the church is a chosen family where Jesus is Lord and people grow. And it’s really interesting how people grow when they spend time with each other, and they play together. If you can take a close look at this Jenga puzzle, you probably want to tell that little girl, “Don’t pull that one out, honey. That’s the wrong one!” But people grow when they spend time with each other and have fun.

And so consequently, you and I need to realize that spirituality is something we do better together.

There is an epidemic. I don’t mind telling you; I think it’s a sickness. A sickness of people who think that they can grow more spiritually if they’re not a part of a church because they think the church distracts them from what’s important. In fact, that group of people is growing. They’re called nones, which are people who say, “I don’t belong to any church.” And they’re called dones. People who say, “I don’t want to be a part of a church. I’m tired of those people telling me what to do. I’m done with church!” Even though – if you do what a church tells you to do – you’re likely to live a better life.

But I want to argue and say, you can’t be a better Christian all by yourself than you can be with other people traveling with you because we are better together. We are better together than we ever can be by ourselves. But it is a growing conviction in our society that the way you ought to be a Christian is for you to go off on your own and do your own thing. And I would like to say to you, in all honesty, I’m not smart enough to be a Christian all by myself because I know if I do my own thing, I will only be focused on my own viewpoint. I’ll only be focused on what’s important to me. And I will miss what’s important to everyone around me. Because all too often, going off all by yourself is an invitation to live a self-centered life, and it’s very difficult to live a spiritual life where there’s no one but the self-centered person.

And so Jesus comes to you and to me and says, “I’m here so that you can have life and have it more abundantly.” Well, what is the thing that identifies the way for us to move toward an abundant life? I want to suggest that it is this: the path to an abundant life is to ask this question: what did Jesus say about this? And you see, here’s the reality, your answer won’t be the same as the answer of the person a few feet away from you in the pew where you sit now. You will grow and learn so much more from the multiple answers, from asking and answering this question together. Because the way to a blessed life, the way to the best life that can be on this earth, is for us to do more and to understand more of what Jesus encourages us to do.

And it’s really interesting; John Wesley summarized everything that Jesus wants us to do in three rules. First three sermons of this year, New Year’s resolutions time, way back in January; you can still listen to them or read them on the blog. The first three sermons of this year were about these three rules, which are about how can we understand what Jesus wants us to do.

And the first rule is that there are things that Jesus wants us to stop doing. Ironically, the process to having more time and more energy and more life is to stop doing things that steal time and energy and life away from us. The word repent means to turn away from things that we shouldn’t do – from sin. To follow Jesus, he’s going to draw us on toward him and away from things that we should not be doing.

The way John Wesley puts it is, by doing no harm; if you and I simply stop harming ourselves and other people, that in itself will incredibly benefit our life. And the benefit of being a part of a church, I think, is that Jesus Christ, when he becomes Lord, he starts to work through the flood of things that overwhelm us and begins to sort them out: “Here are things you ought to leave behind. You can let them go. Here are things you ought to move toward. They’ll greatly help you.”

Jesus sorts the chaos of our life and helps us focus on what leads to a better life. And I guarantee you, if there’s something that is a waste of time, if you simply let it go, suddenly you will have much more time. If there’s something that’s ruining your health, I guarantee you, if you let it go, you will instantly feel more healthy. If there’s something that is a waste of time or a waste of money, if you simply let it go, all of a sudden, you will have more money. You will instantly have more time.What a beautiful thing that God gives us to follow Jesus and leave things behind which are not worthwhile!

John Wesley’s third rule is a little hard to understand. It says this, by attending upon all the ordinances of God, which include public worship and the Lord’s Supper and searching the Scriptures and other very specific spiritual disciplines. That’s a little hard for some people to understand. In fact, brilliant experts have taken all those very specific things that John Wesley said are good for you and shrunk them down to the phrase, “Stay in love with God.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But I think the maintenance tasks that John Wesley said to do will help you to be healthy spiritually. And consequently, I want to compare them to brushing your teeth. I want to compare them to changing the oil in your car. It’s a wonderful thing when your mother says, “Honey, go brush your teeth.” And then you say to your mother, “I love my teeth.” But your mother will look at you and say, “If you want to keep your teeth, you’ll brush them, not just love them.” If you want God to bless you, you will not just love God; you will do the things that God loves, and that help you to be spiritually healthy.

And there’s John Wesley’s specific list. Maybe your own personal list would be a little longer or a little shorter. But these practices help maintain your spiritual health. And they point to one way to lead a better life. If you’re a part of a church, you’ll be reminded to do these things. And quite often, if you choose not to be a part of a church, no one will remind you to do the best thing, whatever that might be. But churches help you build healthy, spiritual habits, one of which is to spend time with each other as we’re gathered here this morning.

Finally, when you read the 23rd Psalm, it talks about how the shepherd is leading you to green pastures. The shepherd is leading you to still waters. The shepherd is leading you to everything you need. Wesley’s version of this is to say that we should do good. But if you want to know what’s good, you will find that Jesus is leading you to all good things. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want because the Lord leads his flock to where they can receive everything that is truly needed. And if we follow Jesus, we’ll be moving forward to abundance.

But again, here’s the key thing: we’ll be moving forward to abundance together. Think about the lost sheep. Have you ever thought about why the lost sheep got lost? Everybody’s going this way. And the lost sheep says, “Wow, that looks interesting!” and goes in a different direction – different from everyone else, but also different from Jesus. Friends, we’re traveling this road together. And that helps us stay on the path because we need each other.

At age 88, as John Wesley was dying, people were gathered around. They were curious about his last words and what they would be. But as we understand the history, as he lay dying, he is said to have raised his arms in the air. And with all of his remaining strength, he cried out not once but twice, “The best of all is God is with us.” And he said it again. “The best of all is God is with us.” And you see here in the painting on the screen, what we have is a picture of church because God is with us.

And God connects us with other people. And we are together. So please remember this: we follow Jesus, not alone, but we follow Jesus with each other. We are together. And what we call that is the church.

But let me describe just a couple of other benefits of the church. These benefits come from the work of sociologist Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam, who sounded the alarm some 20, 30 years ago; he said that life in the United States is causing people to disconnect from each other – because they’re spending more time watching TV than talking to real people. They’re spending more time commuting back and forth to work than with the people where they live. And he literally said that this is the greatest threat to democracy because when people lose their relationship with the people around them, they become easy to deceive and fool. And they can drift into evil behavior” I could talk a lot more about that. But why make the sermon longer? But it’s a brilliant understanding: we are better together.

But today, I would just like to mention to you two benefits of being together. Because you see, here you have a herd of sheep following a shepherd. Putnam’s research identified two benefits to your health from being part of a small group that meets once a week. Now, I’m sorry. That’s not a small group where a preacher tells you a sermon. I wish. But it’s a small group to where you talk to other people, and you feel that they care about you.

Here’s what they discovered. No matter how poor your health, no matter what sort of illness you might be struggling with– and this has been on my mind this week as I’ve traveled to St. Louis to the hospital. No matter what condition your health is in, literally, if you join a small group of people who visit with each other, it will cut the chances of your dying in the next 12 months in half.

Not only that, it will be a benefit to your health that is equivalent to quitting smoking.

Because, friends, we need other people. We need other people. So consequently, I simply want to tell you this. We need more small groups in our church where people visit with each other and pray for each other and support each other. We need more groups in our church where people learn together, or people work together. Because every single one of those groups is going to cut the chance that someone in that group will die in the coming year in half. Every single one of those groups will benefit each person who participates in it, with regard to their health, with the equivalent of quitting smoking.

Now, no offense. Please don’t call me at midnight and say, “Pastor, I feel the need for a small group. Would you meet me at the church at 1:00 AM?” I will, if that’s the only way. I actually did have a Bible study once for men who finished the second shift at Caterpillar. They worked the 3:00 to 11:00 shift. The Bible study started at midnight. They kept me up to 4:00 in the morning … because these were church-going men, and they said, “We’re sick and tired that there’s no place to go after we get off work but the bars.” And I said, “Well, you can come to our church.” I was so tired, though.

But I will promise every single one of you here, I’ll meet you at the church office at 11 o’clock any morning I’m there, and we’ll chew the fat. We’ll have coffee. You can bring donuts for me. But if you need a small group, we’ll have one on the day that you can come because I want to save your life. And I want to bless your life. Because when we get together — and Jesus said it best, “When two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Your life will be blessed if we come together to love one another, talk to each other, and follow Jesus together. So if you’re not a part of something like that, let’s you and I get together. If you bring donuts, probably a few people will come with you, and the Lord Jesus will be with us.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, help us to not be taken in by the flood of misinformation that seems to say to us that all we need to do to be a Christian is to watch TV. All we need to do to be a Christian is to listen to Christian radio and sing along in our car all by ourselves. Help us, Lord, to follow you and realize that if we truly are drawing near to you, truly following you, we’ll find one person on this side and one person on this side of us … because we’ll be following you together with other people. Lord, help us to form those connections that bless our lives, that renew our physical health, that lead us to a place where we shall not want. Because you, Lord Jesus, have provided everything for us. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

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