For the better part of this year Pastor Brian has had the same title for his sermons, “I am Second.” There have been 21 parts to this sermon. I am going to attempt to condense all 21 steps to becoming second to Christ here and give you the corresponding biblical passages.
1 – The Pursuit of Second Place (Matthew 1-3)
There is a big difference today within the American religious culture between being a “Christian” and being a follower of Jesus Christian. In order to be “Second” we have to be the latter. We have to be an authentic follower of Jesus on an active walk with our Lord. “ But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22)
2 – First Steps (Matthew 4:18-22)
The I am Second Life begins with a personal call from Christ Himself. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, he went onto their turf to call them. Jesus came to earth to call us. He did not sit in His comfortable recliner and call us to Him. Jesus came to earth to call us to Him, in part for our salvation – but also so that we could relate to Jesus as a human. He came to get us. Jesus’ personal invitation comes with a promise to be equipped to do whatever He asks of us. So, we have two truths about the first steps of being second to Jesus.
(1.) He will call to us.
(2.) He will equip us.
The most important thing to remember is that we have free will. So the “I am Second” life requires a response.
3 – The Cost (Matthew 8:18-22)
So what will it cost us to put Jesus first and to live Second? Jesus told one potential disciple to sell everything he owned before he could join Him. Jesus told another not to bury his father but to come now. What might living second to Jesus cost us today? Well at least 10% of our income, our time, some family members or friends that are toxic, and etc. To the authentic follower of Christ it doesn’t really matter what the cost is. We might even be asked to give our life for Christ. But remember WE DO have free will and we can choose not to respond to the calling. But if we do respond to the call and live second to Jesus we live our life in the favor of Jesus Christ. The potential disciples I mentioned earlier only wanted the good stuff from Jesus, they didn’t want pay the cost of following Him. Yes, salvation is free and is for everyone but we are also given a command to make disciples of the world. So, that is true cost in today’s time. Pass along the message of Jesus to everyone you meet.
4 – The Despised (Matthew 9:9-13)
God never promised following Him would be easy. But remember He called us to follow Him at all cost. Imagine Matthew’s surprise when Jesus extended an invitation to him to follow. Now just a quick recap – Matthew (Levi) was despised. He was not just a sinner, but he was a thief he would extort hard working people extra tax money which he would then pocket. So I am sure no one among Jesus’ followers was more surprised than Matthew that he was called than Matthew himself. Yet, Matthew did gladly follow without questioning the Lord. Matthew’s first act as a follower of Christ was to throw a party at his house for all of the followers; he also invited other despised individuals. Now to the “uppity religious” (the Pharisees) folks at the time this was offensive. One who was claiming to be pure just did not lower Himself to associate with sinners and they certainly did not eat a meal at their house!! Oh how the gossip mill was turning. There was even Old Testament scripture to back up the Pharisees stance, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,” (Psalms 1:1). By choosing to become second to Jesus you will often upset others by your beliefs and opinions. That is okay. I believe that Jesus intentionally called Matthew that day in the town square as he was in the act of extorting taxes so that He could let everyone know that “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13) By being second to Christ sometimes you will have to talk to the “despised” or sinners of the world in order to follow Jesus’ command to share the gospel with the world. As followers of Christ we don’t get to pre-judge and decide if a person is worthy of hearing the gospel. Our job is to tell everyone the gospel, let face it – none of us are worthy of God’s grace and mercy. But someone told us the gospel whether we were “deserving” at the time or not. God despises all sin, it breaks His heart but He does not despise the sinner and neither should we.
5 – Following with Authority (Matthew 10:1-15)
It is important in life to always know who has the authority and then to know how to follow their lead. If you have made Jesus the authority in your life then you have the Holy Spirit to guide you. In this passage of scripture Jesus was giving the apostles the authority to heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. Now, we as Christians can point to an empty tomb and use the completed bible to prove Jesus’ existence and power instead of having the healing and resurrection powers given to the apostles. He was also giving them instructions not to take any extra provisions with them so they would have to trust in God to provide. Remember the resumes of the apostles would not impress anyone and Jesus did not call them based on their public speaking experience. Faith in Jesus is all that was required then to share the gospel and it is still true today. Don’t worry about your background, just be ready to open your mouth and speak when Jesus leads you to share the gospel with someone. He will give you the words. God gave us to ability and the responsibility to share the gospel. Not to save people that is God’s job. Sometimes we plant the seed, sometimes we water it. The important part is that with authority given by God we share the gospel.
6 – Following into Hardship (Matthew 10:16-33)
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves,” (Matthew 10:16-33). It has already been established that God never promised following Him would be easy. Jesus even said so. That is, if you are living an I am Second life or being an authentic follower of Christ. Some of us may have been told that all that was required was to say a prayer, be baptized, live right and come to church. Well whoever told us that either didn’t read the whole Bible or didn’t want to make us uncomfortable. Jesus clearly commands ALL Christians to share the gospel. Sometimes to be second requires us to get outside our comfort zone, God will have a shy person share the gospel with a stranger or teach Sunday School or someone with chronic health problems may be called to go on a mission trip outside of the country or someone with a background comparable to a “tax collector” may be asked to give their testimony at church. We just never know where God will send us when we are willing to follow His will for us and leave our comfort zone. Compared to the apostles we have it easy in sharing the gospel. We live in a free country where we can share the gospel and not fear imprisonment or death. Just take a moment and imagine if the 12 apostles had not gone out and shared the gospel. What if they had decided not to leave their comfort zone to follow Jesus? Where would we be today? So when we are asked by God to share the gospel remember the following 2 passages: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33). Yes, Jesus is sending us (Sheep) out to the wolves (the world) but Jesus also said “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31).
7 – When Faith and Family Collide (Matthew 10:34-42)
Not only is following God not always easy, but now we are finding out the putting God first and ourselves second is rarely easy. In the last section we learned that the world will reject you because the sinful nature of the world is hostile towards our holiness. Now in this section’s passage deals directly with our own family rejecting us due to our goal of achieving purity and holiness. Once again, Jesus very bluntly tells us, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” (Matthew 10:34-36). Ouch! That can be pretty passage hard to swallow. It also seems to go against the commandment to “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). So what should we do? Well, Jesus answered that question for us “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39). Jesus isn’t speaking in parables here; He is plainly saying “Pick Me!!” Yes, we are to honor our family and love our family but put Jesus first even if it causes conflict within our families. Of course, our prayer is that everyone in our family be a follower of Jesus then the conflicts won’t arise. So we share the gospel with unbelievers within our family and we live our lives in such a way that the light of Jesus is seen in us.
8 – An Invitation to Rest (Matthew 11:25-30)
Following Jesus and being second to Him is not without its “perks”. Jesus said “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). How cool is that? I get rest from Jesus, I get to give Him my burdens and worries and take His yoke which is easy and light. We certainly cannot overlook this part. It is based off one of the Ten Commandments after all, “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Deuteronomy 5:12-14). God wanted to provide us rest; Jesus did not come to take that away from us.
9 – Sacred Traditions (Matthew 12:1-9)
Sacred traditions are certainly not a bad thing, but if we are holding onto traditions instead of the showing the love of Jesus just as guilty as the Pharisees. The example from this week is a woman who was getting ready for church when a friend knocked on her door with a child with a bleeding head asking the woman to call for help and stay with her a few hours. The woman couldn’t because she had to get to church because the preacher was preaching on the mercy of God and the Good Samaritan. The woman just couldn’t see that God had brought the sermon to life right in front of her eyes. This woman was guilty of letting the “tradition” of church cloud her love of God just like the Pharisees did. They had so many laws to govern the Sabbath day of “rest” it was impossible to rest just trying to remember all the rules. They got their robes all twisted because Jesus and his disciples were picking grain as they were walking through a field, which was apparently against one of their Sabbath day rules for rest. The Pharisees were more concerned with their traditions and religious laws than with the love and mercy of God. We must be careful that we remember the mercy of God in all things.
10 – Taking Sides with Satan? (Matthew 12:22-37)
This seems silly, but it is real. Christians are the chosen prey of Satan. We can so easily slip and become friends with Satan, “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) In this passage a friend of the world is one who is taking sides with Satan. You are either for Jesus or against Jesus; gathering and building the kingdom or scattering and attacking God’s kingdom, either on Jesus’ side or on Satan’s side; either His follower of His enemy. This means there is no neutral ground with God. Choose your side wisely!! Obviously being second means choosing God. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t tempted it doesn’t mean we don’t slip. Luckily Jesus said “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32). What I was want to point out about this passage is that “Any sin shall by forgiven”. So, as one of God’s followers when we slip, our sins will be forgiven. Thank you Jesus!
11 – Family of God ~ Part 1 (Matthew 12:46-50)
The word “family” can have multiple layers of meanings. We have a biological mother and father, even if they didn’t raise us. We may or may not have siblings, aunts, cousins etc. We may have dear friends we consider family. Then we have our church family. When Jesus’ mother and half-brothers came to see Him, he said “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50). So we are all family of God if Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Putting Him first and ourselves second is another choice we have to make.
12 – Family of God ~ Part 2 (3 John)
“ I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4) I am sure this is the motto of every Christian parent. Truth is our Heavenly Father is happy when we walk in His truth also. But walking in truth isn’t just not telling a lie or agreeing with the Bible. It is when God’s instructions are our steps without hesitation. It is to know God’s word, believe God’s word and live God’s word. Where there is no difference between how you act in church and how you act at home or at work. When you put Jesus first and you second always, not just when it is convenient. As a parent it starts at home with being that example if you want your child to walk in The Truth then you have to show your child The Truth.
13 – How to Grow a Second Life (Matthew 13:1-23)
Why did Jesus teach in parables? A parable is a story with a divinely hidden point. Jesus regularly used parables to reveal truth to those individuals who had a heart open to believe and willing to learn while at the same time concealing truth from those who didn’t. (Further details of this are in Matthew 13:10-16). Jesus said, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9). Then Jesus explains the parable, “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Mathew 13:18-23). Are you good soil? Are you bearing fruit for Jesus?
This is a long read! So let’s make sure we are still on the same page. What are we doing here? We are intentionally drawing a line in the sand. By using the Bible and not opinion we are seeking to distinguish ourselves from those who would check the box to say that they are a “Christian”, being a nothing more than a religious label because of upbringing or preference, from our pursuit to be authentic followers of Jesus Christ who have and are personally trusting in the sacrificial work of Jesus and seeking to live life under His ultimate leadership. We are choosing to be second to Jesus!
14 – God’s Math (Matthew 14:13-22)
In this lesson there are 5,000 men (this does NOT include women and children which actually brings the number closer to 12000-20000) who are listening to Jesus preach, but it is getting late and everyone is getting hungry. The apostles have a momentary lapse of just who Jesus is (again!) they want to send everyone away to find food on their own, because they couldn’t possibly have enough food to feed everyone. But this is God’s math (no not “new math”). Jesus said, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” (Matthew 14:16). The apostles only had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, I am pretty sure not even the best cook could make a stew to make that work without the help of God. So, what do you do when God tells you to help someone but you don’t think you have the resources? 1 – Take inventory. See what you do have. That is what the apostles did (verse 17). 2 – Take it to Jesus. Jesus clearly told the apostles to bring the bread and fish to Him, which they did (verse 18). 3 – Give thanks asking God to work through our resources so that He may be glorified, “He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food” (Matthew 14:19). 4 – Give it away. The apostles fed everyone there that day and had extra when done.
15 – Confession (Matthew 16:13-21)
Who is Jesus? He referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” (see Matthew 16:13). Jesus asked His apostles who they thought He was, Peter’s response was: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Peter of course had it right, do we have it right? Have you confessed that Jesus is Christ? The Lord of your life? Have you put Him first? If you have not then you are not living the life that God purposed for you. If you have confessed Jesus, ask yourself “Who is Jesus to me today?” Messiah means “Anointed One”, let Him anoint you.
16 – Denial (Matthew 16:21-27)
We have all had to deny ourselves something at one time or another. Pursing being second the Christ is hard because of our sin nature, but possible. “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Constantly setting your mind on Jesus will keep you on course. It will mean that we do have to deny ourselves our desires for God’s will for our lives. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) The “I am Second” life is grounded in denial. Denial will be in your life: you will either deny God’s will and choose yours or you will choose to be second, deny your will, and choose God’s.
17 – Humility (Matthew 18:1-9)
Pride. It is a tough sin for a lot of us to get over. The apostles were no different. They asked Jesus who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus replied, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:1-4) Even the apostles, the men who had spent thousands of hours with Jesus for three years were still getting it wrong. (This makes me feel better when I get it wrong!) What did Jesus mean by “humble yourself as a child?” Children are completely dependent on their parents for shelter, food, guidance, love and well everything. That is exactly how much God want us to depend on Him. But there is more to humility. We must take sin very seriously. In the same breath Jesus also said, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6) Lesson here is don’t be the reason a believer stumbles. But personal responsibility is just as important, Jesus said “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 18:8-9) Jesus is using a physical metaphor to make a spiritual and moral point. If our actions are causing us to sin, the wisest choice we can make is to take extreme measures to remove the instrument and cause of sin (bad influences, electronic devices). We should be not allowing things in our life we know do not honor God.
18 – Holiness (Matthew 18:15-20)
Discipline and correction. This is the part where most “half-hearted believers” fall away or walk away. They don’t want to be told by their Christian brother or sister that they are wrong or they don’t like the idea that God does discipline His children. However, IT IS BIBLICAL!!! There is a right way and a wrong way. We as Christians have a duty to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ if we have knowledge of them doing wrong. Jesus said, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:15-18) Now, in today’s time to treat someone as a Gentile and a tax collector would mean to stop socializing with the person. No dinners, movies. Now before you step to someone to “Matthew 18” them, there are some things to consider. First of all, make sure this is a fellow Christian, if they aren’t a Christian you should be sharing the gospel instead of pointing out their sins. Next, make sure what they are doing is a sin in God’s eyes and not just wrong by your standards. Make sure you are doing this for the right reasons – the goal is to help a brother or sister on their path to holiness not point out flaws or make accusations so make sure your motives are pure. Seek God’s guidance, then proceed as laid out by Jesus. Now, as for God’s discipline on His children. As a child you were disciplined, if you are a parent you discipline your children. We are children of God. It is no different. Even as Christians, walking in faith we disappoint our Heavenly Father and sometimes enough to warrant discipline. “Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” (Deuteronomy 8:5). No one likes getting disciplined, but it is out of those times of discipline that growth will occur.
19 – Forgiveness Part 1 (Matthew 18:21-35)
Merriam-Webster defines forgive as: to stop feeling anger toward someone or to stop blaming someone who has wronged you. Thankfully, this is not how God defines forgiveness. “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) “He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) The east is from the west and the depths of the sea – that is quite a bit different from to simply stop feeling anger toward someone. That is God’s forgiveness towards us. We are also called to forgive others just as we are forgiven. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12) It might get a bit harder here. When asked by Peter how many times we should forgive someone Jesus replies “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22) What Jesus was most likely suggesting here is don’t even keep track. To forgive someone means to put the action behind you, you do not seek retribution or pay-back. There may still be hurt, but you move on. It does not mean you have to condone their action, it does not demand a complete restoration of a relationship with that person only that you forgive. Now for the absolute hardest form of forgiveness… self-forgiveness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) It is a fact, we all sin. Satan usually uses our sins before we are saved to tell us we aren’t worthy of God’s forgiveness. Guilt sets in and that becomes a vicious circle which robs us of our spirit. We must remember, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) If God forgives you then who are you to withhold forgiveness from yourself?
20 – Forgiveness Part 2
Now for the absolute hardest form of forgiveness… self-forgiveness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) It is a fact, we all sin. Satan usually uses our sins before we are saved to tell us we aren’t worthy of God’s forgiveness. Guilt sets in and that becomes a vicious circle which robs us of our spirit. We must remember, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The hurt or sin you committed not can be swept under the rug. There may be legal consequences, which although forgiven by God penalties are still required of you by the legal system. If you hurt another person you may need to seek forgiveness from that person to help them heal. The biggest part of self-forgiveness is taking responsibility for the sins you have committed. Once you take personal responsibility and accept God’s forgiveness then who are you to withhold forgiveness for yourself?
21 – Crossing the Finish Line (Matthew 19:16-30)
Paul the most prolific writer of the New Testament wrote near the end of his life “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8) It is my prayer that this will be said about me at the end of my life as is the prayer of many of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters.
What does “I am Second” look like? It is living for Christ. Putting Him first no matter the cost. It means making the decision to die to yourself and trust your life in God’s hands. Making Jesus Lord over your life and not looking back. It is a daily decision. It takes effort, it takes knowing the word, believing the word and living the word of God. It is freedom.