It’s a challenge writing these sermons. I worry about leading you astray or saying the wrong thing. I worry about speaking too long. But I do like a challenge. And so should you.
Three recruiters were to speak at a high school assembly. One represented the Army, one represented the Navy, and one represented the Marine Corps. Each one was to have fifteen minutes. The Army and Navy recruiters got carried away, so when it came time for the Marine to speak, there was just two minutes left. He walked up and stood utterly silent for a full sixty seconds, half of his time gone. Then he said, “I doubt whether there are even two or three of you in this room who would cut it in the Marine Corps. But I want to see those two or three immediately in the dining hall when we are dismissed.” He turned smartly and sat down. When he arrived in the dining hall, there was a crowd of students interested in the Marines. The recruiter knew that commitment cannot take place without recognizing the potential for difficulty.
I went to Parris Island, South Carolina for 12 weeks and 4 days and became a Marine. My platoon started with 78 recruits. 45 graduated. And out of the 45 of us that graduated, 12 were picked up from previous, older platoons. Only 33 of us were together in it from day 1 until graduation day. It was a challenge and I had my difficulties.Lately the Marine Corps is losing a lot of it’s few and proud. The Corps is losing 8,000 Marines per year due to misconduct. Drug and alcohol offenses, violent hazing, sexual assaults as well as other unspecified misconduct. These individuals are losing sight of what is required to be a United States Marine. The commandant of the Marine Corps stated, “We are an elite institution of warriors, and will remain so on my watch,” Berger wrote. “It is our shared responsibility to ensure the continued health of our collective soul and identity.”Could this be a sign of what’s happening in our world today? Are we letting our souls be corrupted and losing our identity? In the first 300 years, Christianity grew from a small Jewish sect of thousands to several million even amid the Roman persecutions. The church of Christ seemed unstoppable. I look around today and we seem pretty stoppable. Pews are empty. I hear things like, “I don’t like that guy. Someone sat in my spot. Somebody said this. Somebody said that. I didn’t like the sermon. The sermon was too long. The service takes too long.” and people just leave. Are we the followers of Christ that He was looking for? Who here has given up everything to follow Christ?
You come here for answers BUT these answers are hard to comprehend and embrace. We are commanded to live and die for Christ. How easy is it to accept that answer. I read about a man in India who was kicked out of his village for embracing the Gospel of Christ and if he came back they would cut off his hands and feet and burn his family alive in front of him. I read of another man in Nigeria who was asked to deny Christ. He didn’t. First they chopped off his right hand. He still didn’t deny Christ. They then chopped off up to his elbow and he still refused to deny Christ. After that they shot him. Churches around the world are being burned. Pastor are being killed. Christians are being beaten, tortured and murdered for their faith. Sometimes I don’t even feel worthy of reading our Gospel let alone sharing it. We resist the truth. Today’s world is comfortable with everyday blasphemy. The distractions of this world are sapping our strength and leading us away from humility and repentance.
Back to the Marine Corps. What does the Marine Corps have to do with church?
In our Gospel to me, Jesus sounds like a Marine recruiter. Let’s see if you agree.
The Cost of Discipleship
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”Crowds walked for miles dragging along their families to hear this. And I was worried about turning you away or taking too long. ARE YOU READY TO LEAVE YOUR FAMILY FOR JESUS? GIVE UP EVERYTHING YOU HAVE? “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”WHAT IF THERE WERE CROSSES RIGHT OUT THERE? ONE FOR EACH OF US? THREE NAILS FOR EACH OF US? A LOVELY CROWN OF THORNS TO WEAR? IS OUR FAITH READY FOR THAT? “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”THIS IS A GUARD TOWER! IF YOU FOLLOW CHRIST YOU BETTER BE ON GUARD! ON TOP OF THAT YOU BETTER BE ABLE TO FINSIH WHAT YOU STARTED!”Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.”WE’RE AT WAR! IF YOU AREN’T READY TO FIGHT YOU BETTER FINDS TERMS FOR PEACE!“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Salt Without Taste Is Worthless
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”Salt is used as a preservative, an antiseptic and a seasoning. Salt cannot make something good but it can keep things from going bad. Salt can kill germs and salt can add flavor to bland food. We are to keep this world from going bad. We are to keep the sin out of our lives. We are to deliver the Gospel and make it delicious!ARE WE USELESS SALT? NO GOOD FOR THE DIRT. NO GOOD TO EVEN BE ON MANURE. Imagine that! Don’t throw that salt on the crap you’ll ruin it! That could’ve been good fertilizer but now you got that worthless Ed Camp sprinkled!A salty Marine is a veteran Marine. The salt of his sweat from years of hard work has washed away the dye from his camouflage utilities. His uniforms are faded. This is a Marine you turn because of his experience.
We are called to follow Christ. The take up our cross. There is a command for discipleship. Forgiveness requires repentance. Baptism requires church discipline. Communion requires confession.
We are called to be always faithful to Christ! Semper Fidelis is the Marine Corps motto and it means “always faithful.” Semper Fi Jesus! We are to always be faithful and to give our all to Him! And on top of that we are to share Christ to everyone! Again, to faithfully give all to Christ and to give Christ to all!
I’m preaching the Gospel right now and I feel blessed to do it. Thank you God! We are all followers of Christ, we are all preachers of His Holy Word. Inevitably we will all face inconvenience. We are all inconvenienced by daily hassles by spending our precious time, money, energies, efforts, talents, and goals for the church just remember it is for Christ! We do it all for God!
The Marine Corps taught me about teamwork. I’m lost in my mission without you. I need to support you and you need to help me. We as people and children of God require grace, love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. As a people, we need each others open minds, open hearts, discipline, explanation, instruction, rebukes, attention, sympathy, shoulders to lean on and listening ears. We get frustrated when someone interrupts our schedule, our goals, or our comfort. The reality is that these brothers and sisters in Christ are not interruptions or inconveniences to the mission; they are the mission, they are our team and our family, they are the church! We are the church!
We need to be an unstoppable force. We need to repent! We need espirit de corps. Pride, love and fellowship in each other like a team of Marines. We are only as strong as our weakest member. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us eternally in our mind, body and soul. The collective soul of this church is nothing without the Holy Spirit! Our identity, first and foremost is a child of God. Children of God pray for that Holy Spirit inside of you to spark your righteousness! We need to be spiritual Marines and win the battle for the life of this church and our world in His Holy Name!
At the last supper, Jesus drank from the cup of wrath. At the crucifixion, His blood canceled out our guilt and disgrace. Christ satisfied God’s Holy Wrath against sin and assigns the righteousness of Jesus Christ to ALL of us. We have eternal life through His Holy Grace! Again, the least we can do is to faithfully give all to Christ and to give Christ to all!