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THE FOLLOW-THROUGH IS WHAT COUNTS

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

27 MARCH 1994

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 118:1-4, 19-21
Mark 14:1-11
James 2:19

If you have ever bowled or played tennis with any success, you came to understand that the follow-through was a very important aspect of performance.

If you don't follow through, something comes off the ball, or more accurately, doesn't come on the ball, and it doesn't perform properly.

But when you follow through, and you practice, there develops that little extra something that lets you do better.

Our relationship with the Lord is similar.

"Okay!

Here I am!

It's Easter time!

See, I'm in church!"

"That's wonderful," says the Lord, "but what are you going to do for an encore?"

"An encore?

What encore?

This is all there is to my act."

And that's all that going to church or praising the Lord is to some people.

It's just an act.

And to many people in Jerusalem, some 2,000 years ago, who were spreading palm branches before Jesus, it was only an act; for they wanted to do what others were doing, that they would be accepted.

We can act as a believer, but we can never fake true faith, nor can we fool the Lord.

Listen to the call to give praise and thanksgiving to the Lord our God in Psalm 118:1-4.

1. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;

For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

2. Oh let Israel say,

“His loving kindness is everlasting.”

3. Oh let the house of Aaron say,

"His lovingkindness is everlasting."

4. Oh let those who fear the Lord say,

"His lovingkindness is everlasting."

And I will add, “Let this congregation say, ‘His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ ”

Say it!

Why did you say it?

Because I told you to say it, and not necessarily because you wanted to say it.

Isn't that correct?

So, if the psalmist calls upon the sons of Israel, or if I call upon this congregation to give thanks, and the people do as requested, does that make them thankful?

Not necessarily, for it is an expression of thanksgiving only when the individual who spoke really means it.

Remember that Aaron was the first high priest, and all his male descendants were priests, too.

And we would all expect the priest or pastor to give thanks unto the Lord, wouldn't we?

It would seem very strange if I just came in here on Sunday morning and gave you a book report, or discussed what TV show was on last night, or talked about some construction project I am working on, and then dismissed you until next week when we would again come together to socialize and have me tell you stories.

But you don't think it's strange when I do as I always do.

You expect me to lead in praise and worship, and to give thanks to the Lord for all He has done.

And that is what most priests and pastors do.

But acting in this manner doesn't mean that everyone who stands behind a pulpit really believes or is even thankful, that is, except perhaps for the money they get.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of acting going on behind the pulpits.

And just because someone fears the Lord doesn't necessarily make him or her truly thankful.

For as we are told in James 2:19, "…the demons also believe, and shudder."

To be truly thankful, there must be follow-through, or our thanksgivings are but empty words.

Let’s move down to verses 19-21.

19. Open to me the gates of righteousness;

I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord.

20. This is the gate of the Lord;

The righteous will enter through it.

21. I shall give thanks to Thee, for Thou hast answered me;

And Thou hast become my salvation.

We know that the gates of the Temple and the doorways of our churches are for the righteous to enter, but we also know that unrighteous people also enter.

The only gate of righteousness through which the unrighteous can never enter is the gate of heaven.

That is the gate through which the saved of this world will pass.

And those who pass through the heavenly gate are also those who have followed through.

In Mark 14:1-11 we are told of a situation where we can see both those who follow through, and those who don't.

1. Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread was two days off; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him [Jesus] by stealth, and kill Him;

2. for they were saying, "Not during the festival, lest there be a riot of the people."

Do you remember in Psalm 118, that the priests were called upon to offer up praise and thanksgiving?

Well, these priests and scribes are not following through. They are hypocrites!

3. And while He [Jesus] was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.

4. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted?

5. "For the perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her.

6. But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me.

7. "For the poor you always have with you, and whenever you wish, you can do them good; but you do not always have Me.

8. "She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.

9. "And truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, that also which this woman has done shall be spoken of in memory of her."

This woman was obviously following through in her faith.

The others who complained were so caught up in what was happening, and in the value of the gift, that they lost sight of the bigger picture, of which Jesus reminded them.

In essence, Jesus was giving them a lesson in follow-through: that we are to see the forest even when looking at a single tree.

If we are going to develop a good follow-through, we are to look at every aspect of our lives and the effect of our actions.

One of the disciples, however, didn't learn the lesson of follow-through.

10. And Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests, in order to betray Him to them.

Judas was obviously a person who didn't take criticism very well. In fact, he seemed to become vindictive over it.

11. And they [the priests] were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.

Judas was obviously only interested in the money for himself.

And since he never learned, or wanted to learn, how to follow through, he headed for destruction.

There are a whole lot of people in the world today who have this same problem.

And they get uncomfortable when they hear the words that I speak, for they see their pending defeat.

And they try to convince themselves that what I, or others who speak the truth, say is not true, so that they don't have to face hell.

Whether they want to hear the truth or not doesn't change the truth.

For salvation only comes to those who follow through.

Unless we perfect our follow-through and practice it every day, and not just on Sunday mornings or once or twice a year, we may not come up to the standards required of us, and the enemy will defeat us.

The follow-through is what counts.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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