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Commitment: Comfort Zone (Luke 9:23)
Each of us here has a comfort zone. In each of our endeavors, of our engagements, of our encounters, of our enterprises in life, we have a comfort zone. As it applies to our endeavors and engagements in the church, as it applies to our enterprises as a church or a Christian organization, as it applies to our challenging encounters to bring light and seasoning into a dark and tasteless world, we who call ourselves children of God have what can be termed "comfort zones." A comfort zone is the area where we feel satisfied and complacent, strong and confident, secure and cozy, saved and contented.
We believe that each Christian ought to have the desire to be better, but "better" cannot be achieved when we limit ourselves to the satisfaction of our comfort zones. Unless we have the intention to be better, achievement cannot be accomplished, goals cannot be grasped, programs cannot be perpetuated, equipping of the saints cannot be all-encompassing, our witness cannot withstand the temptation not to "go ye therefore," and revival in our churches cannot be realized.
Our being better cannot be achieved when Christian folks limit ourselves to our comfort zones. And the tragedy of that terrible limitation -- which is all too apparent among the saints of God -- is that unity will be undone, ministries will border on mediocrity, opportunities for Kingdom building will be omitted, and -- the greatest tragedy of all -- souls will miss the celestial shores of salvation! Why? Because we did not reach beyond our comfort zones.
I have been challenged to reach beyond my comfort zone, to risk being obedient to the Holy Spirit, in sharing with you a brief passage from the Word of God that is intended to move each and everyone of us beyond our comfort zones. Our text is a familiar verse: "And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me'" (Luke 9:23). The Living Bible says, "Then He said to all [there's that word all again, I guess we cannot eliminate ourselves from this text], 'Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences and carry his cross with him everyday and keep close to me'!" The Life Application Bible adds this commentary footnote: "Keep close to me is literally translated 'follow me!' The Christian follows his Lord by imitating His life and obeying His commands. To carry our cross means to deny our selfish desires to do things our own way. Living in this way is costly now, but well worth the pain and effort in the long run."
We must reach beyond our comfort zones. Every day we must imitate Jesus and obey His commands. Every day we must adhere to the contents of the Scriptures. Before I began the transformation process that occurs by studying the Word of God, I thought certain things were okay; I would let my comfort zone dictate my behavior. I used to apply God's Word only in certain areas of my life. That was until I realized that the Word of God says, "In all your ways acknowledge Him." Before, my comfort zone caused me to think church attendance was optional. That was before I understood the significance of the counsel in the Word of God, "Do not forsake the assembly of the saints." A long time ago my comfort zone said, "I'm saved and that settles it." That was before the Word of God impressed on me that "You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the earth." My comfort zone was satisfied when I gave just a few dollars. That was before God's Word showed me, "Give and it shall be given unto you" and "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse."
Jesus wants us to go beyond our comfort zones so as to ensure that we are professing Christians, not professional Christians. We are not committed to clinging together, we are committed to climbing together: in worship, in waiting on the Lord, in working while we wait, in witnessing, in winning souls, and in watching for His glorious return.
Jesus wants us to go beyond our comfort zones. Comfort can cancel out progress, but Jesus wants us to make perfect progress. Comfort can cause resistance to change, but Jesus wants us to change. Comfort can confuse us, influencing us to believe we have no need to get better. Jesus wants us to influence others to get better by the teaching of His Word. Jesus wants us to go beyond our comfort zones in making Christ known and in knowing Him better.
Consider our text geographically, theologically, and personally. Geographically, our text takes place (as we learn from Matthew's gospel) in the area of Caesarea Philippi. Theologically, it takes place immediately after Peter had responded to Jesus' question, "But whom say ye that I am?"; Peter proclaimed Jesus to be "The Christ of God." Personally, it takes place after each one of us comes to the same conclusion at which Peter arrived -- that we also acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
Our text takes place, personally, at the time that we confess to be followers, disciples of Christ. Many of us have sung "I want to be one of His disciples." Well, if we are to truly be followers of Christ -- if we are to truly be His disciples -- we must move beyond our comfort zones.
Since the objective truth is better than opinion, let's define our comfort zones by the text and offer the remedy, also found in our text. First of all, our comfort zones are where we focus on our own desires and conveniences. Our comfort zones are where we fail to deny self: self-interest, self-satisfaction, self-gratification, self-imposed guidelines, self-imposed limitations -- "I'll do this, but I'm not doing that"; "I'll serve, but only on this day or that day"; "I'll support you, as long as you don't go too far." Our comfort zones are where we fail to deny ourselves. In the words of Jesus, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself."
The true cost of discipleship demands that we reach beyond our comfort zone. It demands that we surrender all to Jesus. It demands that we surrender to the will of God. It demands that we surrender our affections, our bodies, our souls to the Lord!
We must reach beyond our comfort zones. Brothers and sisters, if you aren't hurting, you have not gone beyond your comfort zone. If you are not losing any sleep -- not because of careless anxiety but because of Christ-like activity -- you are not going beyond your comfort zone. If you are not putting the good of Jesus' church above your good on a regular basis, you are not going beyond your comfort zone. If there is not someone added to your assembly directly because of your efforts, you have not gone beyond your comfort zone. If you just ignore the work and take it for granted that things will get done, if you fail to explore how to help get things done, you have not gone beyond your comfort zone. We must reach beyond our comfort zones.
Another characteristic of our comfort zone is that it is known by limited and misplaced commitment. What are you committed to: to being happy or to being a helper; to being relaxed in the church or to reaching out in the community; to being limited by infirmities or lifted by the inspiration of the Scriptures to fight the good fight? What are you committed to: to maintaining your own family or maintaining your family while multiplying the family of God? What are you committed to: to the rituals of service or the reality of serving a true and living God? What are we committed to: to ministry or the misconception that empty churches are pleasing to God? God did not call us simply to build churches but to fill them. What are we committed to: the war or selected battles? We all have comfort zones and a characteristic of that is our limited and misplaced commitment. Found in our text is the remedy, and in the words of Jesus, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Our commitment must be such that we seek to please the One who has enlisted us in the army of the Lord. Our commitment should be to please the One who has called us out of darkness and into the marvelous light. Our commitment should be, said the apostle Paul, "Not that I have already obtained it, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus." Our commitment should be "reaching forward to what lies ahead," to "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Our commitment should be "to present our bodies a living sacrifice." Our commitment should be that of the song writer: "It may be in the valley where countless dangers hide. It may be on the mountain, where I in peace abide. But this one thing I know. If it be dark or cold. If Jesus goes with me, I'll go anywhere."
Is our commitment defined by self or defined by Jesus who gave us the example that we must work while it is yet day, for night-time cometh when no man can work? Is our commitment defined by Jesus who said in the parable of the rich fool, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared? So is the man who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." I wonder: are we impoverished because of our comfort zones or are we rich toward God? Is our commitment defined by Jesus who lets us know that comfort is not always to be expected. Jesus knew that, for He was about to "suffer much and be rejected by the Jewish leaders, the elders and the chief priests, and teachers of the law and be killed; and three days later ...." Is our commitment defined by the limits of our comfort zones or by the lessons of Jesus to be obedient to the will of God? Many choices we make in the area of commitment do not reflect the choices that Jesus would make! They are not the choices that come from trying to be in the will of God! They are not the choices that come from trying to imitate Jesus!
Another characteristic of our comfort zones is that they have restraints. A restraint is something that limits, restricts, or keeps under control. Earlier we referred to the fact that we place limitations on our Christianity. WE WILL ONLY GO: so far in loving; so far in serving; so far in forgiving; so far in ministering; so far in witnessing; so far in giving; so far in sacrificing; so far in supporting and encouraging each other; so far in submissiveness; so far in our struggles against the spiritual forces of wickedness.
Another characteristic of our comfort zones is that they have restraints. The remedy for that characteristic is found in our text in the words of Jesus: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Go beyond your comfort zone. In Jesus' own words: "follow Me." Jesus' life is saying to us: I went beyond my comfort zone -- FOR YOU! I gave up the comforts of Glory to come to the calamities of man on earth -- FOR YOU! I gave up the comforts of on high to cure the problems of the lowly -- FOR YOU! I put aside my royalty so that you might be royal priests and children of the King -- FOR YOU! I moved beyond the comfort zone --FOR YOU!
Jesus' life is saying to us: I laid down my life -- FOR YOU! I declined my will for God's will in the Garden of Gethsemane -- FOR YOU! I was beaten and ridiculed -- FOR YOU! I was condemned to die on a cross -- FOR YOU! I carried a thirty pound piece of lumber up a hill called Golgotha -- FOR YOU! I was nailed to a tree -- FOR YOU! I was lifted high -- FOR YOU! And I arose three days later -- FOR YOU and to give God the glory -- FOR SAVING YOU! I did that -- ALL FOR YOU! I sit at the right hand of God interceding -- FOR YOU! And one of these days I'll again get off my seat in Glory and I'm coming back -- FOR YOU! I have prepared a place -- FOR YOU!
What kind of place is it? It's a place where you can finally have comfort! It's a place where you can celebrate and worship the Lord! It's a place where you will never hurt and never die! It's a place where you can rest and be rewarded for going beyond your comfort zone.
The Lord is saying to us: All I ask is that -- to be a true disciple -- you reach beyond your comfort zone -- FOR ME; if you want to be a true follower, reach beyond your comfort zone -- FOR ME; deny yourself -- FOR ME; take up your cross daily --FOR ME. Follow Me.
Repeat after me, "I'm going to reach beyond my comfort zone -- FOR JESUS!"
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