Following at a Distance

December 12, 2021

David Sorn

Many of us end up following Jesus at a distance because we don’t want our association with Him to cost us anything

Following at a Distance

December 12, 2021

David Sorn

Many of us end up following Jesus at a distance because we don’t want our association with Him to cost us anything



(Christmas Services Slide)

Good morning! My name is David Sorn, and I’m the Lead Pastor here.

As Rachel said, we are getting very excited for our first-ever Christmas services in our building!

It’s going to be sweet.

And I want you to not only be there, but to bring someone with you to hear about Jesus.

There are multiple people sitting in this room right now, who have been Christians for 2 years, 3 years, 4 years now…

…and they became followers of Jesus at a Christmas service…at this church…because a friend, or a family member took a risk and invited them along.

If your family is getting together for Christmas, pile everyone together in the van, and say, “We’re celebrating for an hour at Renovation Church today too!”

When you leave today, we’re going to hand you some invite cards you can give to friends & family as well.

Would you trust God for big things with this?

Who is he putting on your heart?

In fact, let me pause and pray for this right now.



Hey before we jump into our passage this morning, I want to tell you something about this church.

Especially if you are new around here and so, so many of you are.

I’m going to invent a word here, but this church is what I would call a “deepvangelistic” church.

You see, most churches in America exist on the far end of a teeter totter.

We have churches that are very focused on evangelism and they see many accept Christ, but they don’t want to dive deep into the scriptures or say anything that could make any one feel uncomfortable.

While many other churches teach the Bible, maybe even cover the hard sayings of Jesus, but it’s been years since they’ve seen someone come to Christ

And we feel our calling is to sit on that fulcrum in the middle.

To be, deepvangelistic.

So yes, we are passionate about the Gospel, seeing lost people come to Christ.

But also yes, there will be times, and today is probably one of them, as you hear the call of God on your life in the Scriptures, you might even feel uncomfortable in your seat, like, “Whoa. That’s big. Hard”.

But that’s okay.

As Pastor Timothy Keller often teaches, “If the God that we say we worship, never challenges us, than that’s not the real God.”

God’s ways are not identical to any one culture on earth.

So there will absolutely be ways that His ways will challenge our ways…even if those ways feel really normal to the culture around us.

Does that make sense?


Okay, let’s jump into our Bible passage for the day.

(Page 721)

After six weeks on page 720, we made it to page 721

So don’t ever let anyone say there’s nothing to teach, or nothing relevant in the Bible ☺

We are studying the Book of Luke as a church…1 of the 4 books about the life, teachings, death, & resurrection of Jesus

Over the last 6 weeks, we’ve been studying what happened on the night before Jesus is killed, a Thursday night.

For a few weeks we studied the conversation between Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper

And one of the things we covered was Jesus telling Peter that before the rooster crows, Peter will deny 3 times that he even knows Jesus

Then we spent two weeks in the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus prayed and was then arrested

And now as Jesus is seized and taken away from there to his first trials, most scholars believe the clock has ticked past midnight, and we are into the wee hours of Friday morning

Let’s take a look at our passage:

(Luke 22:54-62) – NIV

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.


So Jesus is seized and taken to the house of the high priest, Ciaphas, for one of his many false trials (He’ll endure 6 of them by 9:00 in the morning)

And while Jesus is on trial in the house of the high priest…Peter who has been following at a distance (did you see that in the passage (verse 54))…sits down outside of the trial, in the courtyard.

But it turns out even this distance is not safe enough, as the others start to accuse him of being a follower of Jesus

And Peter denies Jesus…in 3 different ways actually

He firstly denies that he even knows Jesus

He secondly denies that he’s a follower (that he’s “one of the”)

And thirdly, Peter denies that he’s even from the same area as Jesus!

Now before we roll our eyes at him or condemn Peter, let us think about a couple of things

I mean, to Peter’s credit, he was still following Jesus.

Think of the other 12 disciples!

Judas had betrayed Jesus.

9 of the other disciples had just completely fled.

Only Peter and John followed the angry mob that ripped Jesus away from them.

But Peter, is following, at a distance.

And how often do we…follow Jesus…at a distance?

We haven’t left…we do still love Him.

But when we fear that our association with Jesus might cost us something…we follow at a distance.

And this is precisely where Peter is going to jump ship, right?

Beforehand in the Gospels, Peter’s always the first to jump in, and we saw last week, even the first to draw his sword and fight!

But now, it’s apparent to everyone, that the days of Jesus being popular and loved by crowds are over.

Jesus is going to be executed, and Peter knows he could be next.

And at this point, Peter’s self-preservation kicks in, and the cost of following Jesus has just become too high.

And THAT is the main point of this text…we begin to follow Jesus at a distance (to disassociate ourselves from His call) when it costs us something to follow Him.

I know someone who was in my House Group, before we sent him off to help start one of our church plants.

And he was an incredible evangelist.

Always sharing his faith at work and inviting people to church

But one day, his boss pulled him aside and said, “You probably need to stop. Some people are uncomfortable”

And he didn’t, but how many of us would have?

Say your boss pulls you aside next week, and says, “I saw you hand out that Christmas invite card. You can’t do that here”

How many of us stop?

Many of us decide in those moments to back off a few steps, and just, follow Jesus at a safe distance.

Or say you’re at your family Christmas gathering 2 weeks from now.

You’re just trying to enjoy some Christmas Ham and some figgy puddy (anyone actually ever eaten figgy pudding?!)

Until one of your relatives says, “People who believe the Bible are so outdated. When it comes to morality, science, sex, you name it. The whole Jesus thing is old-fashioned and untrue”

Do you, in that moment, speak up on behalf of your Savior, or do you just take another bite of figgy pudding?”

And resign yourself to follow Jesus at a distance?

And isn’t that where so many of us are??

We follow Jesus…but we tend to stop at the point where it would cost us something.

I think this is at least ONE of the major reasons we don’t have enough passionate Christ-followers in this country.

We want to be serious about Jesus and to come to church every week, and read our Bibles every day, and fight against sin in our lives…

but there are also soccer tournaments to get to, work shifts we can’t pass up, cabins to spend the summer weekends at

And also, if we were to get really serious about holiness like the Bible speaks of…

Then we might have to end the relationship we’re in, or stop watching the show that we love to binge, stop listening to the music we like best

This is us!

Do you see it?

Do you see the reason why so many of us have this relational distance with Jesus?

It’s like we’re close, but not…really.

And for a lot of us, the primary reason is because, just like Peter, we love Jesus, but we don’t want our association with Jesus…to cost us.

I mean think about it… Jesus tells us to put Him absolutely first in our lives.

But this is where the call of Jesus painfully intersects with our modern American culture…(like I talked about at the beginning)

If you have to tell your kid’s hockey coach, “Sorry, Johnny can’t play this Sunday because we never miss church. We put God first.” that association with Jesus is going to cost you…and your child.

Or you have to tell your boss, “Sorry, I can’t take shifts on Tuesday night when my House Group meets…those people hold me up…that’s my lifeline to God…and He’s first,” that association with Jesus is probably going to cost you something

Or, a number of times in the last year, I’ve had the following talk with people:

They’ll say, “Pastor David, ‘What does the Bible really say about sex before marriage about living together?’”

And I’ll say, “I will tell you. But what if it says what you don’t want to hear? Will you still put God first?”

“Because doing so might be wildly inconvenient That association with Jesus might really cost you, physically, socially, financially even.”

And 8 times of 10 in those situations people say to me, “No, I can’t follow in that Jesus. It costs too much”

And it breaks my heart.

Walking with Jesus comes at a cost, but His ways are good (SO good)..

Hard, but good.

Look at the words of Jesus back in Luke 14…and the call He has on your life.

(Luke 14:26-27) – NIV

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Now, Jesus doesn’t actually want you to hate your mom.

But contextually, in this passage, he’s making the very strong point that if you’re really going to be his disciple…you actually want to be His follower…

He has to be first.

He says, even before your own life.

If we could truly and fully see the majesty, glory, power, grace, and forgiveness of the Son of God, no rational person would ever put Him 2nd, or 3rd, or 10th.

And God wants to be first in your life.

Even if it costs you everything.

And see, when you follow Him, only when it’s convenient, not only are you missing the call of Jesus on your life to see the amazing things He can do when you put Him first…

But you’ll always be stuck in the awkward middle-ground of following Jesus…at a distance.

Wanting to be close to Him, but not close enough that it would ever inconvenience you

And my friend, that is no way to live your very short life here on earth.

You’ll never be satisfied with the world, and you’ll never be satisfied with your faith…following at a distance.


So what do we do?

Look back to the Word of God…starting at verse 60

(Luke 22:60-61a) – NIV

60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.

Can you imagine all that was embedded in that look?!??

While Jesus is suffering for Peter and his sins, Peter himself sins to avoid suffering.

And so what does Peter do…when Jesus’ eyes lock on him?

Because this is the key.

When your heart is convicted that you’ve been following Jesus at a distance…but only so close that it doesn’t cost you anything….

When your heart is convicted…what do you do??

(Luke 22:61b-62) – NIV

Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

You want to know the answer to walking closer to Jesus again?

Not at a distance?

It starts with tears…

Tears of repentance…of saying you’re sorry, and that you want Him to forgive you, and to put Him first…that He is worthy of being first.

What Peter does with this look from Jesus, and this crow of the rooster will determine the rest of his life.

Let me give you 3 incorrect responses that many of us have when we have those moments when we actually notice this lukewarmness in ourselves…this distance in our faith…

And then I’ll give you 1 right, and Biblical response as well.

When we see “the distance between us and Christ,” what we do with it has massive ramifications:

1. If we ignore it…we’re still at a distance.

If Peter hears the rooster crow, and the words of Jesus fulfilled, and sees the look of the Messiah…

But chooses to change nothing, and to just keep his distance from Jesus…

His faith cannot progress.

If anything, his spiritual heart will harden even further

(Hebrews 3:15) – NIV

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts

as you did in the rebellion.”

Every time you hear the voice of God whispering you to come home, and put Him on His throne…but you say no,

Every time you say “no,” your heart gets harder…and the distance between you and God actually increases

When we see “the distance between us and Christ,” what we do with it has massive ramifications:

1. If we ignore it…we’re still at a distance.

2. If we just try harder…we’re still at a distance

If Peter hears the rooster crow, and says, “Oh man, I’m such a failure! You know what I’ll do? I’m going to try harder! I’m going to be the best disciple the world has ever seen!”

If he does that, he’s doomed to repeat his failures.

While some of you are liable to fall into that first camp and just take an apathetic response, others of us are more likely to fall into this second camp.

I put myself here.

I’m super driven…and when I sin…my mind goes here first: try harder.

But that’s not the teaching of Jesus either.

Because change doesn’t come from us.

And if you try and fix this yourself…that won’t close the distance either.

When we see “the distance between us and Christ,” what we do with it has massive ramifications:

1. If we ignore it…we’re still at a distance.

2. If we just try harder…we’re still at a distance

3. If we drown ourselves in shame…we’re still at a distance.

A third group of us, when we realize that our desire to avoid difficulty or inconvenience has been putting a distance between us and God…

Instead of ignoring it, or determining to try harder, we begin to heavily shame ourselves.

Some of you have already been doing that through this message.

Hear me, that’s not of God.

That’s the path that the devil led Judas down, not the one Peter took back to Jesus

(Matthew 27:3-5) – NIV

3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Judas feels the distance…he is convicted of his sin.

He feels TERRIBLE!

He cries tears just like Peter.

But what they do afterwards is the difference!

Instead of going to Jesus, Judas goes deeper into his head, deeper into shame, and takes his life.

When we sin, when we have let our idols, or our fear of suffering, or anything get in the way of our first love for Jesus…and we realize it…

…there is only one Biblical response…but it is two-parted.

Firstly, it’s to weep over our sins.

…to feel the weight of them

To feel the selfishness of avoiding suffering for the King who gave up everything in His suffering…for us.

BUT secondly (You can’t sit there! You can’t stay there!)

THEN…God wants you to do what Peter did 3 days later when he heard He had another chance to see Jesus and that he had resurrected…

…that there was even a chance He could talk to Him about this…see Him again.

We’re told that Peter RUNS…he literally runs to the tomb.

And we see Jesus forgive Him, and reinstate Him

When we see “the distance between us and Christ,” what we do with it has massive ramifications:

1. If we ignore it…we’re still at a distance.

2. If we just try harder…we’re still at a distance

3. If we drown ourselves in shame…we’re still at a distance.

4. If we weep over our sins, and then run to Jesus…His forgiveness will wash over us and close the relational gap we feel

This is the Christian way.

And it is the direction we must walk at key moments of our lives and in little ones every day

Our sin, causes us to follow at a distance, and we can’t ignore it, we can’t just try harder, and we can’t shame ourselves to death.

We need to acknowledge it, weep over it, bring it Jesus, remembering that he went to the cross for it…and that He PAID for it.

It’s over.

It’s finished.

He nailed it to the cross.

He knew about this.

He literally predicted to Peter earlier that evening that this would happen.

And He knew you’d wander…that you’d stray…that you’d put other things before Him.

And still he went to the cross.

Let Him forgive you.

Let the tears fall if need be.

But please, let Him forgive you.

And come near to Him today.

Run to Him if you need to

Following Him is not easy.

It’s not without cost.

God wants more of your life than you could ever imagine.

But His forgiveness for when you fall short of that, is also much deeper than you could ever imagine.

This is what you were made for…

To live for Him…to put Him first…

He’s too worthy to be second.

And so I want to encourage you…as we sing this final song this morning…to seriously talk with the Lord

In fact, I want to encourage you to write your prayers to Him this morning if you’re willing.

Under the chair in front of you, we’ve placed a cardstock piece of paper and a pen

I want you to go ahead and grab it.

And over this last song, would you talk to God…by writing to Him?

Where is the distance between you?

What’s creating it?

Where aren’t you putting Him first because it would be hard?

What do you need to even weep over?

Where do you need to accept His forgiveness?

Write for as long as you need to…

If you need to stand up in the middle of it and praise Him, do it

If you need to drop to your knees in repentance, then do it

If you need to just stay after the service ends and keep writing, please do that…

Hear me, Peter denied Jesus Christ…

And yet when he came to Jesus, Jesus forgave him, restored him, and used him in tremendous ways.

Don’t underestimate what God can do through you…if you’d just come to Him again.


Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.