Sermon Options: September 4, 2022

January 26th, 2022



In this very personal letter to Paul's friend Philemon, Paul once again challenges believers to step out of the status quo. Through challenging Philemon to welcome back his runaway slave as a brother in Christ, Paul challenges us to tear down the walls that divide us.

I. Walls Divide and Separate
There are so many things that we allow to separate us from one another. There are so many walls that we build and so many things that we allow to become walls. Our fear of something different, our prejudices, grief, or social, political, and economic status. Even our clothes and possessions can separate us from one another.

Actions, attitudes, and events all have a way of imprisoning us and keeping us that way, if we let them. In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, a prisoner in the Bastille who had lived in a cell for many years and cobbled shoes became so used to the narrow walls, the darkness, and the monotony, that when he was finally liberated, he went straight home and built, at the center of his home, a cell. On days when the skies were clear and birds were singing, the tap of the cobbler's hammer could still be heard coming from the dim cell within.

II. Champions of Change
Paul championed change. Paul challenged Philemon to be a champion of change, too. He challenged him to forgive Onesimus for running away. But he also challenged Philemon to accept Onesimus back—not simply as a slave but as a fellow believer.

Bear Bryant, who coached the University of Alabama to several national football championships, once commented: "I'm a good coach of a boy who isn't a champion but doesn't know it. My walls are filled with photos of boys who weren't champions but never found out."

Through Christ, we're called to be champions of change; champions of equality. We're called to be leaders in tearing down the walls that separate us from God and one another.

III. Love Brings Down Walls of Separation
Those walls only come down through the power of love experienced in Christ. That was the power that changed Onesimus. It's the power that has changed the world. It is the power that can even change the most hardened criminal. Love changes us and motivates us.

There was a youngster with mental retardation who seated himself on the floor of a drugstore and began to play with some bottles he had taken off the shelves. The druggist asked him to stop. When he didn't stop, the druggist yelled at him and scolded him with a rather sharp tone. Right at that moment the boy's sister came up. She put her arms around him and whispered something in his ear. Right away, he put the bottles back in place on the shelf. Then his sister turned to the druggist and said: "You see, he doesn't understand when you talk to him like that. I just love it into him." There aren't very many people who respond to being scolded, pushed, driven, or harassed. But everyone responds to love.

It was the love of God, through Christ, in Paul's life that allowed him to change. It was that same love that changed Onesimus. It was the love of Christ to which Paul appeals both to Philemon and to us. He calls us to allow the love of Christ to make us champions of change so we can work to tear down the walls that separate us. (Billy D. Strayhorn)


LUKE 14:25-33

One of the remarkable characteristics of our Lord was his insistence that those who follow him realize the cost. There was never a diluting of what it meant to accept him as Lord of life. In his challenge to follow him, he underscored with red and highlighted in bright color the hardships involved. His appeal for disciples was primarily to individuals, not to the generalized multitudes. His concern was in quality, not quantity. How refreshing, for in many areas of Christendom today the opposite is true!

I. The Demand (v. 25)
In the text, "many multitudes" went with him. The word went means "to go along with." There were great numbers of people who where going along with him. They were following on the basis of a mixed bag of motives. Some were sincere. Some were curious. Some were willing to enlist in anyone's army who was willing to "restore the kingdom to Israel." The multitude knew no requirements and no demands in following the Messiah.

In an instant, Jesus burst their bubble of ease. He was on the way to Jerusalem. They thought he was on his way to worldly power, and they wanted to be a part of it. These messianic groupies had to make a decision: Would they be camp followers or devoted disciples?

II. The Devotion (v. 26)
In the vivid vocabulary of this Eastern culture, Jesus says that those who would follow him must have a love for him that causes other loves to shrink in comparison. The strong word hate grates on our sensitivity. There were several meanings of this word in the day of Jesus. I believe the most applicable in Christ's usage is that compared to one's devotion to Christ, all other devotions on any human level become secondary. Even one's life must become subjugated to Jesus as one of his disciples. "Life" means one's complete self.

Devotion to Jesus as one of his disciples means that there is absolutely nothing that comes between the follower and Jesus.

III. The Death (v. 27)
Taking up one's cross means death to self rather than denial of self. The cross is an instrument of execution ending in death. Today, in our modern Christianity, we have equated the cross more with service than with sacrifice. Those who heard these startling words of Jesus knew unmistakenly that he was speaking of death. With no uncertain sound, Jesus is calling the people to follow him even unto their deaths.

IV. The Dimensions (vv. 28-33)
In defining further what the cost of discipleship is, Jesus uses two parables as illustrations. The first is a builder who prepares to build a tower. The second is a warrior who prepares to go to battle. In each, the emphasis is on counting the cost.

The tower was probably to be constructed on the man's farm to protect his crops and his vineyards from animals that would destroy and from people who would steal. The intent was a positive one. What would be detrimental was to begin the building and not be able to finish it. Beginning without adequate finances would cause derision and shame from his neighbors. Such a monument to bad planning would stand as a poor witness to the builder's ability to finish what he had begun. Jesus is focusing on the end of one's journey with him as well as the beginning.

The warrior king wisely counted how many troups he had before going into battle with his enemy. With ten thousand men, how victorious could he be against an army of twenty thousand commanded by his enemy? Having counted the cost, he came to the conclusion that the better part of wisdom was not to go to war. He seeks peace without the risk of battle. Jesus' point in the parable was the necessity of counting the cost before enlisting in his army.

Verse 33 sums up this section with a call to "forsake all." Are we willing to give up all that we are and all that we have to serve Christ? His call is for a willingness to surrender everything that would impede one's total commitment to him. (John Lee Taylor)

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