Go, Therefore - Erik Smoot

6 months ago

Discussion Question

1) Are there things in my life I need to leave behind in my pursuit to be a disciple of Jesus? 

2) Am I willing to be vulnerable enough to admit that I don't have it all figured out and ask questions? 

3) Am I being an intentional neighbor and discipling someone? 

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Sermon Transcript:

What an incredible job the students have done, this week. I mean, those are — yeah. Yeah, yeah. They’re leading worship, they’re in tech, they’re brewing and serving the coffee. I mean, we can just show them some love, this week. They have done such a great job. My name is Erik Smoot and I’m the Bridge Pastor here at Grace Community Church. It’s such a privilege to serve here. See, Bridge is the bridge between our kids and youth ministry. Bridge exists to develop disciples of Jesus and a sense of community driven by the truth of the Gospel and the power of Scripture. The way that we accomplish that is by teaching the Gospel consistently and creating a fun environment in which students are known and loved by leaders that are invested in their relationship with God.

So, if you haven’t heard of Bridge before, that’s okay. I’m going to give us a quick, little tutorial. It can be summed up in four words. You see, these four words are our pillars, and they represent who we are as a ministry. And everything that we do ties back to them. So, our first pillar is Gospel. You see, it’s our goal that every student would be able to know and articulate the simple truth of the Gospel, and that simple truth is that Jesus, who is the Christ, came to save sinners, like you and I, by taking on the penalty that we deserved and dying on the cross, but was raised up again that we may have new life in Him and a relationship with God forever. That’s the good news we want these students to know.

Our second pillar is Scripture. You see, we believe that the Scripture is our source of truth. So, everything that we teach in Bridge is founded on Scripture. We encourage the students to memorize a verse together, each month, as a fam, and to ask their tough questions that they have about the Bible. And if we’re honest, we want to respond to them.

Our third pillar is Community. See, we want these students to have some fun, to find friends, that they would be united as they learn and grow in their relationship with God. So, we have a blast. We’ve got air hockey, ping pong, foosball, board games, card games, activities. It is so much fun in there.

And our fourth pillar is Disciple. Jesus said it. “Go, therefore, and make disciples.” He didn’t really say anything about church attending. So, what we want to do is we want to develop Christian character in the lives of these students by taking the principles and examples that Jesus gave us in Scripture and applying them to our everyday lives. And this is all done and made possible by your generosity and giving. So, I just want to take a moment and just say thank you so much for giving. And it’s an honor to truly be a part of what God is doing here in the next generation of Christian leaders.

So, a couple weeks ago, during the Captain of My Soul series, Dr. Mark Rutland came and gave his testimony. Did anybody get a chance to listen to it? It was good. Yeah. That was good. And if you didn’t get a chance to listen to it, that’s okay. You can go back online. It’s on our website. We recorded it. You can check it out. But it was powerful and inspiring, and it inspired me. So, what I want to do, today, is share with you a little bit about my story.

See, I grew up in an active-duty military home. Which, for a kid, meant that we moved around just about every three to four years. Now, fortunately — thank you, mom and dad — they took us to church. My brother and I, we grew up in church. We were there all the time. But unfortunately, because we moved around so much, I didn’t really have any deep roots anywhere or with anyone. Honestly, I didn’t really have a relationship with God. I mean, I could’ve quoted a verse or two, maybe, or given you some highlights of popular stories like David and Goliath, or Jonah and the whale, but that’s about it. Honestly, my view of Christianity was legalistic. What I mean by that is that I felt like I was good with God when, and only if, I was doing the right things and saying the right stuff, which is exhausting because I felt like I could never measure up. I was never good enough for that.

So, it got to the point where I felt like, you know, why even bother trying if I know that I’m going to fail? Well, here’s where the story takes a turn. When I was 14 years old, my older brother, Cole, died of a prescription drug overdose. My parents and I found him dead in his bed, and it turned my world upside-down. It left me with questions about God; questions that I was really struggling with because, if I’m being honest with you, I felt like this tragedy shouldn’t have happened to my family. I mean, maybe the family down the street. They weren’t going to church. They weren’t tithers. But us? You know, it left me with questions like, “If God is so good, then why do bad things happen, and especially to those who are faithful to Him?”

I didn’t have any answers. I had no mentor in my life to help guide me through it. So, when the rubber hit the road in my life, I gave up on God. I was so angry with Him. I remember being 15 years old, downstairs in the basement of my house in Ohio, shaking my fists at God. I verbally renounced Him. I said, out loud — and I quote — “God, You are a puppet master and I want nothing to do with You.”

I felt betrayed by God, like He let down my family, because, my whole life, I heard about this good, loving, powerful God, and He let this happen to my family, to my brother. I wanted nothing to do with Him. Now, as you can imagine, that was the start of a very hard road in my life.

Because Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

So, without God in my life, there is this void. Without God in my life, I was miserable. I wanted to fill that void with whatever the world offered me. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, you name it. And maybe you’re sitting here and you’re experiencing some of this miserableness that I’m describing, or you have questions about God that you’re struggling with, too. I’m glad that you’re here because Grace is a great place to be real about it.

But we fast-forward in my story a couple of unpleasant years. See, I graduated high school, at this point, barely, but we moved down to Florida. I’m sitting in my car at 3:00 a.m., in a hotel parking lot, strung out from heavy drug abuse. Too broke to stay in the hotel. Too afraid to go home. And I knew that something serious was going on, spiritually. I knew that one of two things was going to happen. One, I was going to give my life to the Lord right then, right there, and do things His way for the rest of my life, or I was going to continue to be the captain of my own soul, do things when I want, how I want, whenever I want, and the Lord was going to remove His hand of protection from my life and give me the consequences that I deserved.

And it’s hard to describe the tension that I was feeling in that moment. I was scared and lonely, but I knew the words to say. The Holy Spirit prompted me and, at 3:00 a.m., I cried out, in my car, “Jesus is Lord,” and just like that, the Lord delivered me from my heavy drug abuse, and I praise God for that.

Well, fast-forward a year from that moment, and I find myself sitting in one of Pastor Chip’s theology classes. I’m attending Bible college. I’m pursuing a ministry degree. At this point, I am on fire for God, y’all. I felt like, for the first time, God loved me and I didn’t have to earn it. And it was so freeing. But to be honest with you, my marriage was falling apart. You see, there were some things that I still didn’t know how to walk out in this Christian life, and I was ready to walk out on my marriage. But fortunately, somebody began to invest in my life, in my relationship with God, and took the principles and the examples that Jesus gave us in Scripture, and showed me how to apply them to my life.

I had a professor whose name was Blake. I honestly don’t know if my marriage would’ve survived if it weren’t for his investment in my life. We walked through some pretty tough things. I want to give you an example. See, there were some things in my life, as a Christian, that I needed to leave behind in my pursuit to be a disciple of Jesus. See, at this point in my life, I wasn’t doing drugs anymore, but to be real with you, I was abusing alcohol and drinking it far more than I should’ve been. It was affecting my relationship with God, my wife, my kids. I knew that I couldn’t be the man that God intended me to be while abusing this. And I had my mentor. I had some people in my life that told me, straight up, “Erik, you’re going to have to quit this. One of two things are going to happen here. You can keep the booze or you can keep your family.”

And I knew. I knew that this wasn’t something that I could just do with some self-control or in moderation. I am an all-or-nothing person. You can ask anybody that knows me well. Ask my wife and my parents. I’m stubborn to boot. But I knew. I knew that this was something I needed to leave behind in my pursuit to be a disciple of Jesus. And by the grace of God, I sit before you, today, completely sober. It’s good.

Well, later in this story, I graduated Bible college. I mean, thank God because school was tough. I graduated Bible college, but what I realized was, “Wow, I still really need a mentor in my life.” There were some things that I was still struggling with, some things that I didn’t understand. So, I began to pray. I prayed that God would send me a man who loves his wife and kids really well, and God sent me Aaron. We pray, chat, workout, get coffee. We ask tough questions. We hold each other accountable. We’re vulnerable with each other. But the secret sauce isn’t in the workouts or in the coffee. No. It’s that the Spirit of the living God resides in us, and he is committed to my relationship with God, and he is committed to going to the Lord on my behalf, in prayer, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through his life.

And now, my marriage is better than ever. I mean, I don’t want to create any illusions. We still have our stuff. Every couple does. But it’s good. It’s not falling apart. I have joy in my life. I want to wake up in the mornings, these days. Because guess what? I have a relationship with God and I’m being discipled. The question is, though, why? I mean, why is discipleship so important? Well, let me tell you. I’m living proof that Jesus came to seek and save the lost, the broken, and the hurting, to give new life to any who would call upon His name. So, people like you and I, we matter to God. He wants us a part of His story, He wants a relationship with us, and He wants us to be discipled. And why? Because Jesus. That’s why. See, Jesus was about discipleship. I mean, we see, all over the gospels, He’s going to lost, broken, and hurting people, saying, “Come with me.”

So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a look in the Gospel of Matthew. We’re going to start in Matthew 4. See, at this point in the story, Jesus is a man. He’s gone out, He’s been baptized, He was led out into the wilderness to fast for those 40 days. He overcame temptation with Scripture. That’ll preach. And He’s out now. He’s out of the wilderness and He’s ready. He’s ready to begin the ministry that will have the single-handed greatest impact on humanity as we know it. And what’s one of the first things that He does? Let’s read.

Matthew 4:18: “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a new into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Look, we see Jesus gathering His disciples, but there are some things that they need to leave behind in following Him. For me, it was my addictions. The question is, what is it that, maybe, Jesus is asking you to leave behind to follow Him? But let’s keep reading.

So, after He gathers these disciples, “He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”

Look, Jesus gathers those disciples and He’s showing them what His ministry looks like and who it’s for. It’s for lost, broken, hurting people, and Jesus has given them new life and He’s proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom. The good news is, “Hey, guess what? God’s kingdom is here, right now. You’ve got some stuff in your life? You’ve got some things that you’re struggling with? You can be a part of this. God wants a relationship with you. So, Jesus, in this story, we know from Matthew that He gathers twelve disciples, the famous twelve, and He’s investing in them. He is committed to them, they’re following Him around, they’re watching Him, and they’re learning from Him. And after a while, Jesus says, “Okay. Now you go. You go do it.”

He sent them out. He said, “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

Well, déjà vu, this is the very stuff Jesus was doing. He didn’t just want His disciples to attend. He wanted them involved. But did the disciples have everything figured out? No. Of course not. They ran into some things that they struggled with, some things that they didn’t understand. But do you know what they did? They asked questions. Let me give you an example. See, Jesus, sometimes, would teach in these mysterious ways, these parables. He began teaching these great crowds by saying stuff like, “The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl.” Or He would be teaching a parable about a seed, and how a sower planted it on good soil, rocky soil, or how the thorns came up and choked it. And the disciples are there, they’re listening to Jesus teach, and they’re like, “What? Huh? Jesus, we don’t get this.”

They came to Him after one of these parables and said to Him, “Why? Why do You speak to them in parables?”

See, they were willing to admit, like, “Hey, look, I don’t have this whole thing figured out.” They were willing to ask questions. What about this? Jesus showed them casting out demons. They followed Him around. Jesus was doing that all the time. And then, when He sent them out, He explicitly instructed them to do that very thing. But there’s a man with a boy who’s demon-oppressed, and the man goes to the disciples, looking for help, and they’re unable to cast it out. So, the man goes to Jesus and, you know, Jesus, being the Son of God, casts out the demon and heals the boy. Go Jesus. But the disciples are there and they don’t get it. They don’t understand this. So, they come to Jesus.

“The disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’”

You see, when the disciples ran into some things they didn’t understand or that they had questions about, they went to their mentor and were willing to admit, “Hey, I don’t have this whole thing figured out.” The disciples of Jesus asked questions. So, in the story Matthew tells us, Jesus dies and rises up again, but before ascending to heaven, there’s one more thing. There’s one last thing that He wants to tell His disciples, and we read about it.

Jesus came and said to them, “‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

Look, Jesus tells His disciples, “There are lost, broken, and hurting people out here that need this good news. God loves you and wants a relationship with you. Make disciples. Invest in some people’s lives. Walk with them, teach them, and show them what this ministry’s about and who it’s for.”

This is the final commandment of Jesus. See, He wants this for His disciples. This is something He had high value in. And here’s the good news. Jesus said it: “I am with you always, even if you’re broken and strung out in a hotel parking lot at 3:00 a.m.”

He’s not going to give up on you and I. He’s invested in our relationship. He wants us to be discipled. So, Jesus was about discipleship, and here at Grace, so are we. See, the ministry that I serve in, Bridge, exists to develop disciples of Jesus. One of the ways that we do that is with our Influencer program. See, the influencers are a group of middle school students that we pour into. We invest in them, and they come back into Bridge and serve as volunteers. I mean, this is their chance. This is their chance to be sent out like Jesus’ disciples. This is their chance to impact the Kingdom of God. And like I mentioned, one of our pillars, who we are as a ministry is Disciple. See, we want to create Christian character by taking the principles and the examples that Jesus gave us in Scripture and applying them to our everyday lives.

I want to show you what that looks like in Bridge. See, we have a card, a box in the back of the room, kind of like these that we use for giving, here in the auditorium. In that box, we ask students, “Hey, do you have a question about the Bible? Write it down. We want to respond to that. Do you need prayer? Write it down on the card. Is there something that you’re struggling with? Write it down.”

So, one day after service, I open up the box and I see this card inside. “I need help. I don’t know what to do. All the boys on my block are telling lies about me, and now all the girls think I’m a bad person. And this girl, [blank], is not being too nice. Why are they always targeting me? Am I too nice? Love, [blank].”

Y’all, I read this and it broke my heart. So, I called this young lady’s dad and I said, “Can I meet with her after service, please?”

He said yes. So, that next weekend when she came, after service, we just chatted for about 30 minutes. I told her, “I am so sorry that this is happening, but what we need to do is go to the Bible and see what Jesus has to say on the subject. What did He do when He came across stuff like this?”

And I told her Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. He said, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor, but hate your enemy.’ But I tell you love your enemy and pray for those that persecute you.”

So I told her, “Look, Jesus, when we run into stuff like this, He wants us to pray for them. But Jesus didn’t just teach about it. He lived it.”

See, after being beaten, mocked, tortured and spat on, being led to the cross to be crucified as a criminal, even though He was an innocent man, do you know what He stopped to do? Pray. And He prayed for those that were doing it to them, and He asked the Father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were really doing.

So, by the end of this 30-minute session with this young lady, she begins to pray for her bullies and her bullies’ families, that their relationship would strengthen and grow. And I was blown away. But about a month later, this little girl runs into Bridge and she’s so excited. She’s like, “Hey, Pastor Erik. I brought a friend with me to church today.”

I was like, “Up top. High five.” Right? That’s awesome. She said, “Yeah. It’s [blank]. Remember? The one that was bullying me.”

I thought, “Whoa. This girl, this 10-year-old girl, took the principles and examples Jesus gave us in Scripture and applied them to her life.”

She was praying for her bullies and she had the courage to invite them to church with her. I was blown away. I was blown away. She took what it meant to be a disciple and lived it out. Why am I saying all this? This is what we’re teaching the next generation of Christian leaders. This is what we’re teaching your children. And your children, they are willing to be vulnerable enough to admit, “I don’t have this thing figured out.” They are willing to ask questions. See, in that same box where she submitted this question, we’ve been encouraging the students, all year, “Hey, I’ve you’ve got a question about the Bible, if you have a question about your faith, write it down. We want to respond to those things.”

So, I want to show you a couple of the questions that your students have been asking.

“Did people have eternal life before Jesus died?”

“Did Adam and Eve go to heaven or hell?”

“Why did an angel turn into the devil if angels are perfect?”

“Why do all Bible stories point to Jesus?”

“When we die or fall asleep, where are we when we wait for heaven to come to us?”

“Is it true that spirits are a thing and they can possess you if you do not believe in God and Jesus as our Savior?”

“If God loves us so much, why does He let bad things happen to us?”

“What happened to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were kicked out?”

“Why did Satan become Satan, or just why did God create him if he was going to make things bad?”

“What does it mean to be holy?”

“What does it mean to have wisdom?”

And so many more questions like these. And if you’re curious about our responses, you can go online and check them on our Instagram account. Justine Morehart, the Bee Ridge Bridge Pastor, and I respond to these questions each week. But thousands of people are watching these, and thousands of people outside of these four walls are being impacted by the vulnerability of nine- and ten-year-olds who say, “I don’t have this thing figured out.”

Their willingness, like Jesus’ disciples, to ask some questions. So, what I want to do, today, is leave us with a couple questions of my own. Questions that no matter how old you are, how young you are, or what stage of life you’re in, these are questions that we can all reflect upon.

The first one is, are there things in my life I need to leave behind in my pursuit to be a disciple of Jesus? Look, when Jesus came to those fishermen, He said, “Come, follow me,” and immediately, they left their nets and followed Him. We saw that in Matthew 4. Jesus’ disciples needed to leave something behind. That was their livelihood. I mean, if you’re a fisherman and you leave your net behind, you’re not going to be catching and selling fish, I’ll tell you that. But they needed to leave that behind. For me, it was my addictions. To be honest with you, there’s still plenty more because it’s a journey that we’re on when we follow Jesus. And maybe you’re sitting here thinking, for the first time, “I think I want to be a follower of Jesus.”

This is for you. Or maybe you’re on the other side of that and you’ve been coming to church a long time, maybe your whole life. This is for you, too. Look, I can tell you I have been the captain of my own soul before. I did what I want, whenever I wanted, and how I wanted. The only thing that brought me was misery. So, ask. Ask the Lord what it is that He wants you to leave behind in following Him. And I believe that the Holy Spirit will reveal those things to you, but it’s not to be a buzzkill. Right? Jesus, when He calls us to leave these things behind and we follow Him, what we get is His joy. We get His peace. It’s not to be some cosmic joy-kill. It’s the opposite.

Our second question: “Am I willing to be vulnerable enough to admit that I don’t have it all figured out, and ask questions?”

And we saw this is what Jesus’ disciples did. Matthew 17:19. Right? They couldn’t cast out the demon. They couldn’t, but they came to Jesus privately and said, “Why? Why could we not cast it out?”

Look, they could’ve pretended, like, “Hey, do you know what, Jesus? It was the boy’s fault,” or, “I didn’t actually have any lunch today, Jesus, so bring them back tomorrow and we’ll be good.”

No. They were willing to say, “Hey, I don’t have this whole thing figured out,” and to begin to ask question. Because look, here’s the deal. There are going to be things in your life, and in my life, too, that are tough, things that we may not understand, things that we may struggle with, but it’s okay to just begin to ask questions. Jesus’ disciples didn’t have it all figured out. Students in Bridge, they don’t either. And I’ll admit it. I don’t have all this figured out, but it’s okay to admit that and ask questions.

Our third question for today: Am I being discipled? Look, when we believe and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, to give us a new life and a relationship with God forever, we begin a journey of following Him, doing things His way, following His example, obeying His teachings in Scripture. So, ask yourself, “Am I being discipled? Is there somebody a couple steps ahead of me in this thing that I could begin talking to?”

If not, pray about it. Pray and start looking around. You may say, “Hey, do you know what? It looks like your wife and kids really love you. What is it that you do when you go home?” Or you might say, “Hey, do you know what? I came across this thing in Scripture. I don’t know why it would be there, but you went to school for this sort of thing and you’ve been studying the Bible a long time. Could we maybe sit down and read this together? I’ve got some questions about this.”

But it’s not about finding the perfect person, because I’ll pop the bubble: None of us are. None of us are perfect, but it’s about finding somebody who is going to be committed to your relationship with God, that’s committed to going to the Lord on your behalf, in prayer, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them.

Our fourth question: Am I being an intentional neighbor and discipling someone? Look, Jesus said it. It was the last thing that He said to His disciples before He ascended to heaven. We read it.

“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

This was important to Jesus because He knew there were lost, broken, hurting people that needed this good news, and He wanted His disciples to invest in them. So, ask yourself, “Am I discipling somebody?”

It’s okay if you’re not. Begin to ask. Pray about it. Say, “Hey, God. Who are You going to guide my steps to?”

And then it doesn’t have to be complicated or complex. It starts with an invitation. “Hey, do you want to grab coffee with me sometime?” or, “I’m about to start this Bible study. Would you maybe want to join me and read this together?”

But look, this was the final commandment Jesus gave us before leaving earth. We should really take it seriously. Here at Grace, I mean, this church exists to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We’re not going to reflect Christ if we’re not doing things His way, following His example, and investing in people. So, it’s my hope and my prayer, today, that we can learn from the example of Jesus, and learn from the example these incredible students have given us, and really invest in discipleship. Will you all bow your heads and pray with me?

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