We have had a wonderful week at Vacation Bible School this week! We’ve had so many kids who had learned about God’s love for them through their studies, crafts, songs, and even some silly skits and videos. I was learning my lines for the skit on Wednesday when I came upon one of my lines. The character I played, “Scuba Do,” had this line: “Some of my friends find it hard to believe that there is so much life under the sea because you can’t see it when you stand on the beach.”

That one line took me back about five years ago when I was on summer vacation with my family in Florida. I went snorkeling with the boys one day and saw some sights that I had never seen in my life. We were snorkeling at Bathtub Reef when I saw some of the most beautiful sights. Fish were there. Fish like I had never seen. Fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors that one could imagine. We would paddle along with our faces in the water and when one of us would see some beautifully colored fish we’d jab one another in the ribs and point like little kids seeing Mickey Mouse at Disney World for the very first time. When we would come up to talk about what we had seen I would ask, “Who painted that fish all of those beautiful colors?” Dan or Nate would always say, “God did it.” Plants were there, or were they animals? I never did figure it out. They were so elegantly swaying to the rhythm of the ocean. There were tons of shells lying around on the reef and we learned that in some of the shells there was life. We caught a couple of hermit crabs that had bought them a new home inside of two of the prettiest shells one could ever hope to own. To you and me they were just little one-room flats, but to the crabs they were cozier than a Swiss chalet. We saw the most marvelous colors and the most stunning sights that I had seen in a long time.

Like the kids who have learned so much about God this week — God taught me some things that I will never forget while I was out snorkeling on the reef. I told the boys — “We could spend the rest of our lives snorkeling in this one area. We could observe it, study it, take it all in, and never take it all in.”

One of the greatest lessons God taught me I want to share with you this morning. For the casual observer who likes to go to the beach, lie on the sand, and get a tan –there is a limited appreciation of what is happening in the vast waters before them. There are the waves breaking on the shore, broken and lifeless shells lying on the beach, and the gentle sea breezes blowing across the waters. There are children building castles of sand, sea gulls flying overhead, and an occasional fish breaking the surface of the water. Oh, it is beautiful to behold, but if you choose to stay on the beach you are going to miss out on the abundant life that awaits those who are willing to get in the waters.

If you really want to experience life and the abundance of life in the ocean then you must have courage enough to get out in the water. You must calculate the risks. You may very well get stung by a Jellyfish, run into a shark, or find yourself being pulled out to sea by one of its strong currents. These, and more, are very real risks that one may encounter at the ocean. For the brave soul that wants to experience life in the ocean you must put aside your fears and take the plunge. Head first. No holds barred. No holding back. Full speed ahead. Dive in, wide-eyed, ready to take in all that awaits you when you lay aside your reservations and with reckless abandon open yourself up to what awaits you in the life beneath the surface.

Come to think of it that is the same way God comes to us – or the way we come to God. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) But we will never ever even begin to catch a glimpse of the abundant life that awaits us beneath the surface of living until we lay aside our reservations, fears, comfort, apathy, and selfishness, and plunge in. Head first. No holding back. Risking it all to experience what awaits us in Christ.

Life is too short to be lived lying upon the beach and staring at the lifeless “shells” of humanity that pass before our eyes. Shells of humanity. Lifeless, listless, languid, lethargic remains of what once was a bold, buoyant, bubbly, brilliant, beautiful life created by God but crushed by any number of negative influences. Life is too short to remain paralyzed on the beach because of the fear of “sharks” in the waters. Oh, there are sharks in the waters of life, but there is abundance in the midst of the sharks and that abundance is so sweet, so invigorating, so life-giving that no shark can scare me away! Life is too short to remain on the beach primping, posturing, and posing – self-absorbed with me.

We all start out on the beach of life, but God is calling us into the deep waters of His abundance, the deep waters of His grace, the deep waters of His sufficiency, the deep waters of His salvation, hope, healing, and purpose. In the depths of the “Living Waters” there is life, abundant life that is so marvelous, so majestic, that all of the seas in all the world could not contain it all.

I do not want to live on the surface. I have spent too much time on the beach. I have primped and posed and postured trying to be noticed by all of wrong people until my soul has become sun-scorched. I have focused on the sharks, the problems, and the naysayers who always point out the potential pitfalls of life in the depths. I want to dive in, full speed ahead, to experience the glory and grandeur of life in the depths of my Savior’s love and abundance. I don’t want to take a one-time plunge to go sightseeing. I want to make a conscious decision each morning to take the plunge. To dive to the depths, to marvel at my Master, to soak up all that my Savior has awaiting me, if…if I will only choose to leave the dry and dreary beach of life and dive deep into the Living Waters.

God has called me to come to you this morning, many of you who are living on the dry and dreary beach of life, and invite you to dive in this very morning. At the end of our service I will give you an invitation to face the sharks, the dreaded unknown of where you have never gone before, of what you are unfamiliar with, and make the decision to dive deep into the arms of our Savior.

I want to prepare you now for what you will face when I offer that invitation. You see there are sharks swimming around the waters of this sanctuary this morning. Satan’s greatest desire is to have you and me never leave the bleary beach. Satan has convinced many of us, even those who claim the name of Jesus, that hanging out with the other “shells” of humanity is enough to expect out of life. Satan wants to convince you that you need to just chill out on the beach where it is safe and secure. I want you to know that Satan is a liar and that you need not fear the sharks. Don’t fear the sharks.

There are three very important points that we need to talk about before I offer you an invitation to dive deep into the abundant life that Jesus has for you.

First, you must count the cost. When you go to the ocean there is a clear line of demarcation between life on the beach and life in the water. The worst thing that can happen to you on the beach, in most cases, is that you may get sunburned. If you choose to step over the line into the waters that rest before you – you may lose your life. You must count the cost and realize the price to be paid for entering into the depths.

The first time that the boys and I went out to snorkel we were having the best of times when all of a sudden a man raised up out of the water and told us to stay away from one particular area where there was a shark patrolling the reef. Well, I’ve seen Jaws. I didn’t just stay away from one particular area, I gathered up my children and headed to the beach.

Later, I learned that the sharks that were on the reef were mainly Nurse Sharks and Reef Sharks. Rarely if ever did they attack a person. Their looks and the mystic that surrounds them was far worse than the reality of their power. With a better knowledge of what we might face I made the decision that no shark was going to keep me from what was awaiting me out on the reef. It wasn’t that the shark had gone away, but I simply counted the cost and determined that the potential danger wasn’t anywhere close to the potential blessings that awaited us.

As we move from the dilemma I faced at the ocean, as to whether or not I should take the risk of entering the deep waters, to the dilemma each of us face in life we need to know that we still must count the cost. The dilemma we face in life, for those of you who don’t know, is this: will we remain on the sidelines of life, comfortable, tanned, toned, and tight or will we dive in to the great unknown and follow Jesus wherever He chooses to lead us. Following Jesus is costly.

Some of you who have been in church every Sunday for years are thinking to yourself, “Coming to church is costly. If I didn’t feel so guilty every time that offering plate passed by me I could have bought me a new set of clubs or a new fishing boat by now.” My friend you have totally missed the boat. My tithing is the least of the costs that I have had to count since I have been following Jesus.

Some of us claim the name of Jesus, but that is all of Jesus that we have. We think paying the price is having to get out of bed a little early on Sunday morning to go to church. I maybe willing to pay that price three Sundays out of four, but don’t ask me to go to Sunday school. We think paying the price is not getting a parking place next to the church. We think paying the price is getting out of church fifteen minutes late. We think paying the price is having to serve communion when it isn’t our month to serve. We think paying the price is being asked to be a greeter when we just want to come to church. I say you don’t have a clue what paying the price of discipleship is all about.

Because we have such a juvenile, childish understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus we suffer from spiritual dwarfism. Some of us have been Christians for years. We have homes and jobs and responsibilities, but we have no maturity when it comes to our walk with Christ. As a result, we may claim the name of Jesus, but that is all of Jesus that anybody sees in us. The power of Jesus is missing. The purpose of Jesus is absent. The peace of Jesus is undetectable. I am not talking about Sunday morning Christians – I am talking about the price that is to be paid for those who want to become crucified, resurrected, born again, sanctified soldiers in God’s army of grace, preparing in the barracks of boldness, and marching on the fields of faith.

The cost that is to be paid by those folks is great indeed. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mat 16:24 NIV) Paul knew the cost that was to be paid. Paul wrote to the Galatians and said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 NIV)

What is the cost of diving deep into a saving, nurturing, life-giving, and awe-inspiring relationship with the Savior? The cost is great indeed. You must die! We must be willing to die to our dreams, our hopes, our passions, our desires, our preferences, and live for Jesus – only for Jesus, solely for Jesus!

Are you willing to pay that price? Are you willing to give it up to that He can come into your heart and transform your life, take you to places that you have never gone before, allow you to see things that you have never seen before, and do things that you have never done before? When we are confronted with that choice we automatically think, “But what if I have to give up this or that or what if He calls me to do this or that?” All I can tell you is that whatever He does in you, through you, and for you will be more spectacular than anything you have ever experienced.

Some of you may think I am some kind of radical with this kind of talk. I use to shy away from that and not want to come off to folks as some kind of radical, but I gave that up. I am radically in love with Jesus! I want to be radically committed to Him so that I know His voice in an instant and follow Him in a minute! Apart from that, you need to know that I didn’t make “counting the cost” up – it’s Jesus’ idea. Take a look at Luke 14:25-35.

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: {26} “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. {27} And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. {28} “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? {29} For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, {30} saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ {31} “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? {32} If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. {33} In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. {34} “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? {35} It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25-35 NIV)

Jesus is calling us to dive in. You can’t test the waters. You can’t be hot on Sunday and lukewarm for the Lord the rest of the week. You can’t wear a cross on Sunday and take it off on Monday. You can’t speak like a saint on Sunday and curse like a sailor on Saturday night. You can’t say, “I’ll give God my Sundays, but Friday nights are still mine.” If you really want to dive deep and see the sights of the Kingdom of God, experience the joy of life in the Spirit, and enjoy the Fellowship of the Savior then you have to count the cost.

Secondly, you must stand up to the sharks that will try to drive you back up on the beach. Let me explain to you what I am talking about. In the eighteen years that I have been in ministry I have run into more new Christians who have been shipwrecked on the beach by those who professed to love and care for them. These are broken down into two groups: One, those who are not believers and do not understand why anyone would want to give over their will and all that they are to Jesus. To be honest with you I really don’t have much of a quibble with these folks. I do have sympathy for them, but their minds are dark, their eyes are blind, and they simply do not understand the things of the Spirit of God.

The second group is an altogether different group. This group is made up of supposed brothers and sisters in Christ. You need to know that there are many Christians who are very content on the beach. They have no desire to wade out into the deep waters of faith. They do not desire to see God do the unimaginable. They don’t want to be stretched, prodded, or moved out of their comfort zone. They always have an excuse as to why they can’t or won’t trust God for more than what they have already experienced. These folks are in every church and they are here. For those of you who are content on the beach that’s fine if that is what you want, but for heaven’s sake leave the rest of us alone! Don’t condemn those of us who believe that “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Don’t mock those of us who believe that God still speaks, that God still moves, that God is still busy drawing men, women, boys, and girls to His heart. Don’t stir up trouble so that the attention of the church is taken off of Jesus and focused on your puny agendas and prejudices.

For those of you who want to dive deep into the waters of Life, who want to know Jesus intimately, don’t fear the sharks. Don’t let them dilute your faith. Don’t allow them to cause you to question God’s absolute power, might, and majesty. Don’t give Satan a foothold or he will lead you down a path of mediocrity and indifference.

How do I know about the spiritual sharks of life? I have battled them since I first committed my life to Christ. They don’t mind you giving a little, but don’t go overboard. They don’t mind you and me worshipping the Lord – that is as long as we worship Him like they do. They don’t mind you and me going to church because they don’t want their church to die, but they don’t want us taking the church to the streets – to the lost, the broken, the lonely, the bruised. I use to try and pacify the spiritual sharks that God had allowed to come into my life, but no more. Life is short and there are literally millions of folks who are dying every day having never had a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus. I don’t have the time to coddle the sharks – I must share the Gospel.

The sharks were around in the church during Jesus’ day and here is how He handled them.

Jesus said, {13} “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. {14} {15} “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:13-15)

Jesus didn’t spend much time coddling sharks and neither should we. We must share the Gospel!

The final insight that I want to share with those of you who are contemplating taking the dive into the deep waters of the abundant life that Jesus offers is this: Just as the true beauty and majesty of the ocean is found in the ocean, so the true beauty and the majesty of life is found in Christ. The phrase “in Christ” is found some 91 times in God’s Word. The benefits and blessings that await those who are found in Christ are innumerable, but let me share just a few verses with you as we close. Apart from living, moving, breathing, walking, talking, sharing, caring, and growing in Christ – none of these benefits or blessings are available. Take a look with me and let’s discover what awaits those who are willing to move from the dry and dreary beach into the depths of God’s marvelous love found in Christ.

There is eternal life awaiting those who choose to plunge in to their new life in Christ.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23 NIV)

Condemnation is removed from those who choose to take the plunge into their new life in Christ.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, {2} because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom 8:1-2 NIV)

There is no chance of ever being separated from the awesome love of God for those who choose to plunge in to their new life in Christ.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? {36} As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” {37} No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. {38} For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, {39} neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:35-39 NIV)

Sanctification, or a growing experience of purification, awaits those who choose to plunge in to their new life in Christ.

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours: (1 Cor 1:2 NIV)

An experience of righteousness, holiness, and redemption awaits those who choose to plunge in to their new life in Christ.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. {28} He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, {29} so that no one may boast before him. {30} It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. {31} Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:27-31 NIV)

We have the assurance that this life is not all there is if we will choose to plunge in to a new life found only in Christ.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. {18} Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. {19} If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. {20} But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. {21} For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. {22} For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:17-22 NIV)

We march in triumphant procession, as a fragrant reminder to the world of His love and mercy, when we choose to plunge in to a new life found in Jesus

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. {15} For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. {16} To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Cor 2:14-16 NIV)

We are a brand new creation, the old way of life, the old habits, the old sin-filled life being passed away, when we choose to plunge in to a new life in Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! {18} All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: {19} that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. {20} We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:17-20 NIV)

We are sons and daughters of Almighty God, clothed in Jesus Himself, and united with our other brothers and sisters across the world when we choose to plunge in to a new life found only in Christ.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, {27} for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. {28} There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:26-28 NIV)

We are blessed with every spiritual blessing from heaven when we choose to plunge in to a new life in Christ.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Eph 1:3 NIV)

God raises us up and seats us with Him so that we might show His grace to the world when we choose to plunge in to a new life in Christ.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, {7} in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. {8} For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– {9} not by works, so that no one can boast. {10} For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:6-10 NIV)

We can be free from anxiety and bathed in the peace of God concerning all situations in life when we choose to plunge in to a new life found only in Christ.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. {7} And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7 NIV)

We who are weak and frail can be made strong in the grace of God when we choose to plunge in to a new life found in Christ.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:1 NIV)

Even when we suffer, we will be assured of being restored by God and made strong and steadfast when we choose to plunge in to a new life found in Christ.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. {11} To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 5:10-11 NIV)

It is hard for me to explain to you the glorious beauty and majesty that I saw in the ocean while I was snorkeling at the Bathtub Reef, but it is impossible for me to fully describe for you the unimaginable beauty, joy, and glorious blessings that await those who choose to leave the beach of life and plunge deep beneath the surface of life into a new and glorious life found in Christ.

I want to invite you to count the cost of venturing into a life of discipleship, a life lived solely for the purpose of serving God. After counting the cost, take the plunge, dive into the Father’s arms and get ready for a life of joy, growth, salvation, and unspeakable experiences that you have never witnessed before. Life is not on the beach my friend, life is found only in Christ.

Dive In!
Luke 14:25-34
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