January 28, 2024, It’s All About Following (Obedience), Epiphany 4

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.)

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

HYMN Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
Alan Jackson – ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus (Live)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer −
Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow; Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation.
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. 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 Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Have Thine Own Way – Gospel Music Hymn Sing at Lee University

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: It’s All About Following (Obedience)
Text: Luke 6:46-49, Matthew 28:18-20
Series: The True Work Of Christmas for 2024

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


Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”


HYMN Trust and Obey
TRUST AND OBEY – The Living Stones Quartet LSQ

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!


Last week, we talked about the reality that we live in a world that is very distracting. We live in a world that’s always trying to capture our attention. And we find ourselves asking the question, “What’s it all about … when we feel confused? What is it that we’re supposed to do?”

And so this week, I wanted to talk about how it’s all about following because Jesus wants us to follow him. Now, if you’re going to follow Jesus and he goes that way, guess which way you’re supposed to go? As one church put it, if Jesus would vote yes, you can’t vote no … if you want to follow him because following is about obedience. And as the hymns we just sang said, we can trust Jesus. We can trust him and obey him.

But first, I would like to talk to you for a moment about the scandal of the week. I would like to introduce you to Pastor Eli Regalado. And God told him about a year and a half ago that what he should do is start a Bitcoin fund. And God told him to talk to his church members about investing in the fund. And he told his church members that it was God’s will that they invest money with him [laughter] and 300 of them gave him $3.2 million. It works out to an average of about $11,000 each.

The interesting thing is that right after they gave him this money, God told him to keep almost half of it for himself. And not only that– now, you just got to know this man’s a righteous man. He paid his taxes on what he stole— I mean, on what he kept for himself. Then he spent about $300,000 of it renovating his house because the Lord told him to do that. And by the way, he confessed this in a video that he put on the internet. He also allegedly spent that money on buying a new Range Rover, an expensive car, I assume, luxury handbags for his wife, jewelry, they hired an au pair, a servant for their children, and rented boats and snowmobiles.

Later in a video this week according to the New York Times, he issued a video to his investors and he said to them, “Now, folks, please don’t be angry at the prosecutors that arrested me. This is their job and they’re just doing their job.” But he said, “There’s something that I know to be true. The first one is this. It’s either one of two things. Either I was wrong when God told me to do this and you were wrong when God told you to give me the money, or,” he said, “God’s going to work a miracle and restore all the money you lost. I’m praying for a miracle.” Who knows how this is all going to work out? But see, that’s someone who knows what God’s will is as far as he’s concerned.

But friends, there’s a big problem with that. The first problem is this: you are welcome to ask me for directions to the post office. But if I were you, I would not ask me for directions on how to invest your money! I don’t think that’s a pastor’s job to tell you. You need to talk to experts.

But in addition to that, if a pastor, including me, looks at you and says, “God told me that you should do this!” I want to tell you what to do. You hold up a Bible and you say, “Okay, pastor, I believe you. But I need to hear what Jesus told me to do because that’s what’s really important.” And see, this is the problem. It’s hard to hear God’s voice when you’ve already decided what you want God to say.

I would like to ask you to use your imagination because on the countertop in Vervadene’s office, there’s a nice little stack of rubber bands. And I forgot to bring one in. So I don’t have my rubber band. But I want to ask you to imagine a rubber band.

I know you know what rubber bands are like because one of the scriptures that applies to every situation in life that applies to scripture is this one where Jesus said in Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began–” never said that Jesus ever stopped, “Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” There is something about the Christian life that is about repentance.

And I want to define repentance for you today using this imaginary rubber band. One end of the rubber band is around this finger, which represents what you and I are doing. But the other end of the rubber band is around the idea of what God wants us to do, okay? And if there’s a distance between what God wants us to do and what we’re doing, that creates a tension, a pull. The greater the distance between what you’re doing and what God wants you to do, the more the rubber band will pull you in one direction or another.

The pastor who stole that money solved the problem with that tension by changing what God wanted to match what he was doing, which was not a good idea.

But no matter what you and I are doing, if we listen to God, God will say, “Here’s the next step. Here’s something a little better. Here’s something that’s more pleasing to God. Here’s something that will work better to you.” And the purpose of the tension is to pull you toward God’s way of doing things. That’s what it means to be holy.

Now, here’s the problem. When God is speaking to you, quite often, you will feel that tension … a little bit of worry, that little bit of concern. Am I hearing God correctly? It’s a sign that God is really speaking to you if you feel that pull, that tension.

Be especially careful whenever what you’re doing seems to you to perfectly match what God wants you to do because it’s a warning. Now, what you’re doing may be good. But friends, let’s be honest, you’re not that good that God can’t help you to be more loving or more helpful or more wiser. So that’s what it means to repent, to feel that tension and let it move you toward what God wants.

There’s a beautiful example of this that my father taught me. My father was in the Navy; this picture is of people in the army. My father said one of the most useful things that he learned in his life was that there is a right way and there is a wrong way and there is the Navy way. And frequently, as a teenager, he would express out loud the wish that he could send me out to basic training because it would help me, he said, to live a better life.

These men in the picture are in basic training for the army. They are singing a song as loudly as they can because if they do it in a way that pleases the sergeant, they won’t have to run the obstacle course five more times. They’re highly motivated to sing it the army way because that’s the only way. And my dad loved to tell me stories about basic training at Great Lakes Naval Station and how the purpose of it was to teach them how to obey orders. As you know, in a military situation, especially for any of you who have been through basic training, there comes a time when the sergeant says duck, and you need to duck because bullets are coming your way to where obedience happens exactly and immediately.

And in fact, there are words for that. The word yes, sir means yes. The word no, sir means no. But the word that says, I hear and understand your order is aye, aye, sir. That’s the army way. And the reason they teach this is because if people are able to follow orders, more of them come home alive.

Please keep this in mind, too: there is a right way; there is a wrong way, but there’s also the Jesus way. And basic training for Christians would cover the same sort of thing. We need to learn how to follow orders. Now, not orders from a pastor who’s going to invest your money in Bitcoin, but orders from Jesus because that’s who we follow. So it’s important for us to figure out how to learn to follow orders.

And one of the very first questions related to that is this, what’s an order? Now, the interesting thing is that the Greek language, which is the original language of the Bible, has something grammatically we do not have in the English language. And it’s called the imperative mood. When somebody asked you what you learned in church this morning, you could say, “Well, we studied grammar.” But here’s the imperative mood. The imperative mood is that when Jesus wanted to give you a suggestion, he could use the word a certain way. But when Jesus wants to give you an order, the word is said in a different way, which indicates this is an imperative. This is a command. This is something that is not a suggestion. This is something that you need to do.

And so I thought to myself, what would illustrate that? And I thought of– there are some stop signs … they don’t trust you to see the stop sign. They actually have this big blinking red light on the stop sign to remind you: “This is an order. This is not a suggestion.”

Now, I don’t know how many of you noticed … we’ve been asking you to read the Gospel of Mark, one chapter a day, each day in January. I want to ask you to continue to read the Gospel of Mark, but this week on the church Facebook page, I put all the imperative words that Jesus used from one chapter in the Gospel of Mark on the Facebook page.

Folks, here’s the orders. How would you choose to obey them? Two days later, I put the second chapter up. Now, in a few more days, there’s going to be a chapter where there are no commands. Now, Jesus has a lot to say in that chapter. There’s a lot of good in that chapter, but there aren’t any specific commands. But the reality of this imperative mood is if you have access to the Greek and the little bit of knowledge that’s needed to review it, you can absolutely tell what is a command and what’s a command for us.

Here is why that’s important. This is another one of those overarching scriptures, the Great Commission. At the very end of the book of Matthew, Jesus comes and gives them a summary of what they’re supposed to do now. And these are four commands. They all sort of fit together. Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

And then look at verse 20. From now on, here’s your job, “teaching them” … everyone who would say that they are Christian. “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Now, observe does not mean I’m looking at what Jesus commanded. Observe means that I am living by it, that you literally can see me do what God commands. One of the ways to say this is it’s what a camera would see. That a camera would literally see you obeying what Jesus asked you to do.

So consequently, everything the pastor says, I would suggest, everything that’s in a sermon, I would suggest, should teach you. Not just to know what a commandment is, because how often do we know something and never do it? But teach you how to do what God asks of us because that is what’s going to build the church, because what we need in every human situation and every problem, I would suggest, is to know, what did Jesus say about this? In Luke 6:46, Jesus is just really plain. He looks out at the crowd and he says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?” Friends, that’s the problem we have in church, and here’s why.

Here’s the very next verse from Luke 6. Everyone who comes to me and hears my word and does them, I will show you what he is like. He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation upon rock. Think for a minute. Jesus says, “Upon this rock, I’m going to build my church,” referring to Himself. Jesus is the solid rock. But he is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation upon rock. And when a flood arose, floods and storms always come, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it because it had been well-built. It had been well-built on a good foundation.

Now you’re looking at a picture there of the Wooddale United Methodist Church. They’re a little church in Pennsylvania. They have 45 members. I went looking for a small church that was what seemed, to me, a good example, and they’re the best one I found.

When it came time to look for a church in trouble, I found this one, the Pinewood Church of Christ in Nunley, Tennessee. I don’t know if you can see the picture very clearly, but you can see that the floodwaters are about eight feet deep all around that church. Not a pretty sight.

One of the things they would do in the desert of Israel is they would find a nice flat place to build. And, of course, sand really holds some good weight, but the nice flat sandy places in Israel are all dry stream beds. Friends, if you build your church on a dry, flat, sandy place that is actually a dry river, sooner or later, the storm’s going to come and it’s just going to sweep everything you’ve built away.

But Jesus says, “He who hears and does not do what I say is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation.” Looks real pretty, doesn’t it? It saved a lot of money not to build a foundation. Against which the stream broke and immediately it fell and the ruin of that house was great.

And Jesus is looking out onto the crowd and he’s saying, “You have a choice as to how you live your life.” You can build your home on a good foundation and it will last. Or you could take the easy way out. Try to save a few bucks. Build your house without a foundation, but the trouble is, whenever there is trouble, it won’t last.

Consequently, let me tell you a story about Dick. I been blessed to be your pastor here going on almost 10 years. Before that, I was in Caseyville, Illinois, where I was there for nine years and two weeks. Before that, a long time ago, I was in Quincy, Illinois, where I was the pastor there of the Grace United Methodist Church for nine years, 1985-1994. And one of the coolest things in Quincy was to be a part of a group called the Newcomers. And we would meet once a month to play bridge.

And one of the couples in that bridge club was Dick and his wife, and Dick owned the local McDonald’s, at 13th and Broadway. The local McDonald’s in Quincy, and he was an amazing man. He’d been a farmer, and he lost his left arm in a farming accident. Couldn’t farm anymore, and decided to become an owner-operator of a McDonald’s restaurant. Very, very successful at it. Very intelligent, very charming man. And as we played bridge– and he would play bridge one-handed, he had a little rack like for Scrabble that held his cards. And he was so smart. It was just wonderful to talk to him. Such a wonderful man.

And at some point in time in the conversation, I said something to him, “You know, I wonder what sort of creative things you get to do at work at McDonald’s. Do you ever make yourself a sandwich in a different way or something like that?”

And he laughed and he laughed and he laughed. And I said, “What’s so funny?” He said, “Well, Dave, let me tell you something. You know who makes the most successful McDonald’s restaurant owners?” And I said, “No.”

And he said, “Well, they’re not college graduates. They’re not creative thinkers.” He said, “The people who make the most successful owners of McDonald’s are farmers.” And he looked at me and he smiled, and he said, “Dave, do you know why?”

And I said, “No, Dick. Why is that true?”

And he said, “Because if you work on a farm, you’ve learned how to follow directions. And the very best owners of McDonald’s, the very most profitable McDonald’s restaurants are ones where the owner does everything exactly the way it is specified in the owner’s operating manual. There is literally a manual that tells you exactly the temperature for the grease you cook the french fries. You do not turn that up one degree. You do not turn it down one degree. It is done exactly according to the operator’s manual. Because the advantage of a franchise is this: they’ve already worked out what works and what doesn’t. And all you have to do,” he explained to me, “is, if you do it the way they tell you to do it, everything’s going to go well.”

“But,” he said, “whenever you find a McDonald’s that’s in trouble, whenever you find a McDonald’s that’s not making money, whenever you find a McDonald’s where employees are unhappy and they’re quitting. Whenever you find problems,” he said, “you’ll always find it’s because the owner didn’t follow the manual because the manual saves you all kinds of trouble. But an owner that will obey the manual has no problems.”

Now, if they learn something different, by the way, they change the manual. But the reality is, they’ve already figured out all the hard stuff. All you have to do is follow the recipe. And that caused me to think, as I was remembering this yesterday, that a church is a Jesus franchise. And when there are problems, when a church fails… This is a church on a street in a very poor neighborhood in Detroit that is closed down. They were not successful at staying open. Even though they are surrounded by millions of people, they could not keep the church going. And I think about … “Why?”

You see, friends, there is a manual for how to live the Christian life. There is a manual for how to be the church. And what the disciples were told in the Great Commission is to spend the rest of their lives teaching people how to understand and follow the commands that Jesus gave us.

And so what I want to suggest is whenever there’s a problem that we need to resolve, we need to ask ourselves the question: what did Jesus say we should do? Now, it’s wonderful to have pastors give you explanations and creative ideas. It’s wonderful to have experts come in and have workshops. But friends, what we need to understand most for every problem is what does Jesus want us to do? And we will find that answer in the manual.

But what will happen when we read the manual and we look at what we’re doing is we’ll notice that there is a tension between the way we want to do it and the way God wants us to do it. And we have to ask ourselves the question, do we want to move to where we’re in charge? How’s that working out for us? Or do we want to be pulled toward what God wants us to do, which is something we haven’t tried yet? And so you see, there’s that tension between what Jesus wants and what we are doing. And what helps us resolve that tension … if you look down in the bottom left-hand corner there is, what does the manual say? What did Jesus say we should do? And how did Jesus say we should do it?

And if a pastor comes to you, including this one, and says, “Hey, friends, this is how we should do it. This and this and this and this.” I invite you to pretend that you are from Missouri: Pastor, I agree with you, but before I lift a finger, before I do a thing, please show me where Jesus said that … because then you’ll be able to understand truly what God wants.

And let’s have that conversation. Where does Jesus say what we need to do? Because I think that a church is a Jesus franchise. I think that a church is meant to run the way Jesus told us to run the church. And all too often, we get distracted and confused, and we miss what Jesus is telling us.

Yesterday, by the way, somebody asked me if I was going to tell you a joke during the service today, and of course, this has to do with telling corny jokes or bad jokes. I would like to ask you to imagine what it feels like to sign a contract to build a brand-new church. (The picture on the screen shows a giant stack of lumber.) The only problem is, you know who you bought your brand new church from? IKEA. Because, when you buy something from IKEA — I have never visited an IKEA store, but people tell me it’s amazing. They have these amazing things there and they are such a bargain. The problem is you have to put them together. All they give you are the parts and the instructions.

And whatever the perfect church is, whatever is the next step, an improvement upon our church, whatever will solve our problems, whatever those problems are, they come to us like this: parts and instructions. And Jesus asks us to put them together.

But do you know what guides us when we put these things together? It’s the same as always. Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what Jesus wants, which we’ve gotten from the manual. And what Jesus wants pulls us toward Jesus’ way of doing things and the church becomes the best church that it can be.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, when we bring a frozen pizza in from the garage and we think we remember the temperature to set the oven, remind us to look at the instructions. Lord, when we think we remember everything that goes into banana nut bread, help us, Lord, to look up the instructions, to be certain, so that our efforts are not wasted, so that we do not gamble with the future of our lunch. And Lord, let’s not gamble. Let’s not take risks with the future of our church. Let’s not gamble, Lord. Let’s not take risks with the future of our Christian life. When we pray, Lord, let’s not gamble that our prayers will not be answered. But instead, Lord, help us to pray with the knowledge of what Jesus wants and the knowledge of what we’re doing. And Lord, help us when those two don’t match up to repent and make a change. 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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